Being a Teen and Tween Parent can be challenging, right?
Heck, just being a parent is tough.
These kids don’t come with some magical owner’s manual and every challenge is always different.
And when you have multiple children, forget about it. Not only do the problems multiply, the solutions become more confusing because what works for one child doesn’t always work for another.
We all see the jokes online about parenting.
It’s definitely funny at times, no doubt.
But this post is about the times when being the parents of teens and tweens isn’t as humorous.
This is about those ‘oh sh*t,’ behind-closed-door moments when you want to pull your hair out and crawl into a corner and cry. These are the topics that we aren’t always comfortable talking about to friends, and we’re definitely not posting these concerns on Social Media.
Top 10 Problems Teen & Tween Parents Face
- Peer Pressure: Family is no longer the top influencer in your child’s decision making and that becomes challenging for both children and parents.
- Bullying: Having to deal with physical and/or verbal threats become challenging for both parents and our teens and tweens. When do we step in as parents and when do we let our children resolve this on their own?
- Sex: Puberty is starting to kick in and sex hormones are leading to physical and emotional changes. How do you talk about this?
- Drug & Alcohol Use: Tweens and teens are starting to attend parties without parents and alcohol (and drugs) may be present. Is your child ready to handle this situation and are you?
- Depression &/Or Anxiety: 1 out of 8 children have an anxiety disorder according to ADAA and 80% of them go untreated, leading to isolation, substance abuse and poor behavior. Do you know how to detect this as a parent and/or when to seek professional help?
- Obesity: Childhood obesity has skyrocketed and currently 1 out of 3 children are overweight. How do you approach this topic with your child (especially if you are slightly overweight or obese)?
- Social Media: Social Media usage by Tweens and Teens can boost your likelihood of getting accepted to your top college pick, but it can also create challenges for parents. Do you discuss this with your kids and do you know what your child’s “Finsta” accounts are? They have one (trust me).
- Negative Media: The media (news) is rarely positive and at times can make the world seem pretty gloomy. This impacts our children more than most know. How do you discuss “negative” news around the Dinner Table?
- Mood Swings: The hormones are flying and the moods are a swinging. They can go from happy to raging within seconds. How do you deal with the 180-degree mood swings and are you aware that the way we deal with it impacts them for life?
- Isolation: Doors begin to close more frequently and children begin to want more alone time. Isolation can be detrimental, but it is also healthy. Do you know how to tell the difference?
So know we’ve shared the top 10 problems Teen and Tween parents face.
Now it’s time to dive into some solutions for you Mom & Dad, shared from some pretty wicked smart experts that are inside our Power House community.
Teen & Tween Parents Problem 1: Peer Pressure
Dealing with peer pressure can be challenging for both adults and children.
It’s that desire that you want to “fit in” and be like the group.
It makes you feel accepted, less confrontational than going against your peers and saying no and you feel like your respected.
Tween and teen parents need to realize that regardless of how well you parent or your parenting style, every child is susceptible to peer pressure.
It’s important to note that not all peer pressure is bad. Peer pressure can help us have the courage to challenge our unhealthy fears that prevent us from taking action.
What we want to address here, though, are solutions for the type of peer pressure that keeps us parents up at night and concerned.
Here are some things you can do as a parent to reduce your child from being influenced by others.
First, children who have high self-esteem are less likely to be influenced by peers.
Here are 10 ways to boost self-esteem in children that we discuss in a previous post:
- Teach Them to Pick Themselves Back Up – Failure is a Part of Life
- Encourage Them to Help Others
- Focus on Their Strengths
- Be Involved in Your Kids’ Activities
- Look for New, Hidden Talents
- Look for Fun Opportunities to Develop Social Skills
- Spend More Time Outdoors
- Encourage Participation in Sports
- Give Age-Appropriate Responsibilities
- Model Positive Self-Esteem
Secondly, work on increasing your child’s self-confidence. Children who are more confident in their abilities are also less likely to be influenced in copying others. Ways to increase self-confidence include:
- Be Authoritative
- Praise Their Efforts
- Encourage Decision Making
- Encourage Their Individual Talents & Strengths
- Stay Connected
Third, consider teaching the 5-second rule to your kid. This is a great tool for both parents and children to use in life to make better decisions and also to avoid making those poor decisions.
As I point out in this video, our children’s decision making part of the brain isn’t fully developed until we’re in our 20’s and thus, having a tool like this to help us make the right decision can help. This strategy can really help with all the topics we’re covering in this post, but it can especially help with peer pressure.
Finally, make time for your kids as we discuss in this interview with Dr. Jess Shatkin on dealing with teen safety.
Get to know your children’s friends and encourage them to “hang out” at your house.
The more you get to know them the better one-on-one parenting conversations you can have after learning the behavior of their friends.
Teen & Tween Parents Problem 2: Bullying
Bullying is tough and it’s important we teach our kids how to identify what bullying really is and how to stand up to a bully.
Social conflict is normal in life and thus we need to make sure that we don’t confuse this with bullying.
One thing we can do as parents to make our children less susceptible to bullying and teach them to be empowered.
Watch this video by Brooks Gibbs, an award-winning social skills educator who teaches students, parents and teachers how to handle “bullies.”
When you press play, it’ll start at 10 minutes in and it’s only 3 minutes to watch. It’ll show you a great strategy to consider teaching your child if they feel they’re having a difficult time with another child or even a teacher who may be bullying a student:
As Brooks points out, if your child feels empowered and they’re more resilient, they’ll be able to address this bullying problem themselves.
Here are 7 ways to Raise a resilient child:
- Praise their effort
- Model a willingness to try new things
- Give them tension outlets
- Help them find self-esteem sources
- Provide consistent leadership
- Help them find mentors
- Be on the lookout for under-the-radar learning struggles
Teen & Tween Parents Problem 3: Sex
Now, let’s talk about sex (little Salt-N-Pepa humor to lighten the awkwardness).
This for some parents is a tough topic to discuss with your Tween or Teen, but it’s one that needs to be had.
Teenagers particularly are still looking for your guidance, but they don’t want a lecture either.
Here’s a 3-Minute video from a conversation we had in our Power House community with Dr. Jess Shatkin on this topic:
I personally love how Dr. Shatkin explains using real numbers verse percentages. The example of 50% chance verse 1 out of 2 particularly resonated with me.
One point worth noting is that children with high self-esteem again are less likely to make poor decisions about sex. It’s also important, instead of using scare tactics (which psychologist have shared over and over doesn’t work) that it is a conversation over a lecture.
Ask them about their friends, to ease into the conversation when starting. Many of our Teens may feel their friends are having sex, thus making them feel like they should, when many times it’s not the case.
Now, with that said, by the age of 19, 7 out of 10 teens have had sex and 2000 teens get pregnant every day in the United States alone, according to a recent Psychology Today study. Thus the discussion about safe sex needs to be had. Also, studies have shown the teens who are more informed are more likely to hold off, surprisingly (so get talking Mom & Dad).
Listen, no one says this is going to be a comfortable conversation to have for all parents, but you can’t leave it to your children’s friends, computer or school to educate them. One easy way to begin the conversation is in routine, everyday life moments. Watching a movie and you see a scene that involves sex? Great time to start a conversation. Watching T.V. and a commercial comes up about Viagra or some other sexual topic? Great time to start a conversation. Driving by a billboard about Planned Parenthood? Great time to start a conversation.
During each of these moments, if you make it less about them as you begin the conversation, you’ll find it’s much more natural.
Remember Mom & Dad, we’re too young to be Grandparents yet, so have the conversation. If you need support from other parents, join our free Facebook Group community to ask questions or hear from our expert guests on topics like this (click here to join us).
Teen & Tween Parents Problem 4: Drug & Alcohol Use
First of all, Mom and Dad, not all teenagers are getting drunk and high every weekend (so take a deep breath).
That said, there are some statistics you need to be aware of:
- Almost 50% of high school seniors have abused a drug of some kind
- By 8th grade, 15% of kids have used marijuana
- 43% of high school seniors have used marijuana
- 8.6% of 12th graders have used hallucinogens
- Over 60% of teens report that drugs of some kind are kept, sold, and used at their school
- 1 in every 9 high school seniors has tried synthetic marijuana (also known as “Spice” or “K2”)
- By 8th grade, almost 30% of kids have tried drinking alcohol
- 58% of sophomores have abused alcohol
- 71% of high school seniors have used alcohol
- 23% of 12th graders reported on binge drinking
- 8% of high school students admit to driving after drinking
- 24% of high school students rode with a driver who had been drinking alcohol.
So while your child may not be one of these statistics, there’s a strong possibility that one of his or her friends are. And we’ve already discussed the ramifications of peer pressure.
Joronda Montano, the program director and drug prevention specialist at NotMYKid, says that parents need to set clear expectations around drugs and alcohol.
“Be clear and say, drugs are not something we do in our family. Parents’ disapproval is a huge factor in preventing substance use. If a teen believes that their parent disapproves of drug and alcohol use, they are going to be less likely to use. On the other hand, if the teen thinks their parent is okay with it, they’re going to be more likely to use.”
She also suggests giving kids who enjoy thrills a safe alternative that still gives them the rush that accompanies risk-taking. For example, BMX racing or skateboarding could give thrill-seeking kids a natural high that will still give them the hit of dopamine they may be craving.
In another post, we wrote about other ideas for how to increase dopamine, naturally, that you may want to take a look at if this topic is of interest to you.
Give kids an easy out when they’re in a risky situation.
Let your kids blame you if they’re being pressured to do drugs or drink alcohol. For example, suggest, if your kids are in a situation where they’re being pressured to try drugs, that they tell their friends that they can’t because you periodically drug test them.
Also, have a game plan if they need to make an exit.
Let them know they can text you anytime they’re ready to come home, no questions asked. You may even want to come up with a code word to text so you’re aware before getting them.
Make sure that they know they can come to you anytime and that you’ll love them unconditionally, regardless of the decisions they make.
This last part is why it’s so important to start these conversations when they’re young and have a regular communication routine. In fact, this is an important step in building your child’s self-confidence, which is incredibly important as they navigate high school and try to stand up against peer pressure to make unsafe decisions.
Teen & Tween Parents Problem 5: Anxiety & Depression
It’s really easy to look at our kids and blame ourselves if everything isn’t going smoothly in their lives.
But the reality is that kids can have major struggles, even when they have the best parents in the world. And one way this is especially true is for anxiety.
According to ADAA, 1 out of 8 children have an anxiety disorder and 80% of them go untreated, leading to isolation, substance abuse and poor behavior.
Dr. Vanessa Lapointe, a bestselling author and contributor to our Power House Family community, even shared that her own son has had struggles and, as she said, he had a great set of parents and a very healthy upbringing.
But, as she explained to us, what’s traumatic for one person isn’t traumatic for another and something that may seem inconsequential to you can cause major trauma in a child, resulting in a host of fears and anxieties.
Moreover, some kids, just by disposition, are more likely to struggle with anxiety.
I don’t share any of this to worry you, Mom and Dad, but just to make you aware that 1) you aren’t alone if your child does struggle with anxiety and 2) if they do, it’s not a reflection on your own parenting skills.
According to Dr. Lapointe, the more common anxiety disorders include:
- OCD – the peak age for this to be diagnosed is actually 14 years of age.
- Phobias – Many of us have phobias, like a fear of spiders, but the challenge is when our phobias get in the way of our ability to function normally and live our lives
- Social anxiety is a very common anxiety disorder in teens
- Generalized anxiety disorder – when we just have a big long list of worries about a long list of things.
- Post-traumatic stress disorder – when you develop a heightened sense of physiological arousal following either an acute or a chronic kind of stressor
According to Dr. Vanessa, sleep disturbances are really common for kids with anxiety and can be one of the first signs of an anxiety disorder. Another indicator is when kids constantly seem in a heightened state of alarm, as if nothing around them is safe.
According to VeryWellMind, some other signs that your child is struggling with anxiety are:
- refusal or reluctance to go to school
- decreased academic performance
- extreme shyness or nervousness
- difficulty, fear or avoidance of interacting with peers
- odd rituals, such as excessive hand washing, counting, or arranging objects
- fear of being away from home, parents or other family members
- frequent crying spells
- ongoing physical complaints that may include headaches, upset stomach, muscle aches or fatigue
- trouble sleeping or nightmares
- not wanting to sleep alone or fear of darkness
- difficulty concentrating
- irritability or frequent temper tantrums
These are just a few of the signs. And, of course, many of these signs, alone, may just be a normal part of your child’s development. Your child may be struggling with an anxiety disorder, even if none of these signs are present.
If you think your child is struggling with an anxiety disorder, it’s best to get professional help.
As Dr. Vanessa told us, though, there’s no such thing as a quick fix, so if someone promises you that, look for a different doctor. There’s no such thing as a quick fix for anxiety. It takes three to four months for real neurological change to take place.
It’s also never going to be a hands-washed-and-done thing. Life is going to happen and kids are going to face new obstacles and experience setbacks. Don’t be disheartened if and when this happens. Understand that it’s just part of life.
Teen & Tween Parents Problem 6: Obesity
There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to talking to your kids about weight.
But there’s no doubt that this is a tough subject. How can you bring up weight without sending your hormonal teen spiraling?
Roughly 34 percent of 12 to 19 year-olds are now classified as overweight or obese, according to a report from The American Academy of Pediatrics, and if your child is part of that 34 percent, I guarantee they know it.
The report advises parents of overweight kids that, if you want your child to lose weight, don’t tell them that.
It may be hard to believe, but overweight kids are actually at a high risk for eating disorders, which is the third most common chronic condition in adolescents after obesity and asthma.
So what can you do to get your child’s weight down (especially if you’re overweight or obese yourself)?
Start by discouraging unhealthy habits like dieting, skipping meals or looking to quick fixes like diet pills. Instead, encourage healthy eating and physical activity.
Promote a positive body image. This starts with you, Mom and Dad. If you want your kids to be healthier and lose weight, you have to model that in your own behavior. The reality is that we are the ones buying the food. Yes, kids may make suggestions at the store, but you’re the one paying the grocery bill.
So what are you stocking your pantry with? It’s a good idea to have fruits and vegetables washed and ready to eat at all times so kids can grab and go.
Try preparing healthy meals with your kids and eating together as a family once per day.
Also, be careful about what you’re saying in front of your kids. Are you talking negatively about your own weight? Are you saying anything in front of your kids about the weight problems other people are having? Making comments about how so-and-so has really put on weight or could really drop a few pounds?
It may not be intentional. You could be just thinking aloud. Or speaking to your spouse and not even realizing your kids are within earshot. But always assume they are listening, because you don’t want your kids to start believing their value is in any way tied to their clothing size.
Jancey Wickstrom, site director at The Renfrew Center of Chicago, an eating disorder treatment clinic, says, “When kids hear their parents talk about friends or family members gaining or losing weight, it sends a clear message that the most interesting thing about those people is their physical size.”
Instead of talking to your kids about numbers, Wickstrom says, “Talk openly about the benefits of exercise and a variety of foods. Talk about what your body does for you and in what ways you can make your body feel better, so it does more for you. ‘Do you like to go skateboarding with your friends? How can we make sure your body feels good when you do that?”
Try making physical activity a part of your family’s normal routine. Find something you enjoy doing together to unplug, get some fresh air and exercise.
Teen & Tween Parents Problem 7: Social Media
We recently did a deep dive on this topic, covering teens and social media. However, it’s a big concern for parents (and rightfully so), so we wanted to cover it here as well.
It would be really easy as parents (with the way the media makes social media look like the root of all evil), to want to pull the plug on social media entirely. But it’s important to remember that both teens and adults are safely able to navigate the internet and social media every single day.
And, chances are, banning social media is only going to motivate your kids to sneak around and use it behind your back. Because all their friends are on there.
For example, have you ever heard of a “Finsta” account? It stands for “fake Instagram” account and is something that most kids have today. They have their real Instagram, “rinsta” account, that the world knows about and sees. And then they have their “finsta,” which only a few select friends may know about.
The problem is that everything can be screenshotted. So while you may think that you’re just posting something for your circle of friends, it would be really easy for a provocative photo to be screenshotted and posted to the internet.
But kids don’t always think about this. Or they trust their friends implicitly… until they realize they’ve trusted their friends with too much.
But if you have a “zero tolerance policy” where social media is concerned, chances are your kids will be on there regardless and are going to be more likely to make mistakes online. And a tasteless or provocative photo posted online with their name attached can have far-reaching consequences. (Think about future college admissions officers or employers.)
As Josh Ochs, founder of the website Safe, Smart & Social, points out, “When you tell a young child ‘Don’t touch the stove,’ what’s the first thing they want to do? Touch the stove. So try a different approach: ‘Hey, let’s learn how to cook today.’ In other words, show your kids how to use social media in fun and safe ways.”
So where should you start?
Start an open dialogue around internet safety and social media when your kids are young.
For small kids, keep the rules for the internet simple. Things like, “Ask Mom and Dad first,” or “If we haven’t played with a game at home first, we aren’t allowed to play it away from home.”
Don’t make a big issue about the internet being unsafe. Just create standard rules for how you do things.
Dr. Vanessa does a great job of explaining this: “When we are in a grocery store, we stay close to mom… Not because ‘if you don’t stay close, then so and so is going to steal you,’ but because this is how we do things.”
So we tell kids that the internet and social media are safe, but the rule is that “we don’t give away too much information.” That’s just the way it is.
Teens can be a little trickier, as I’m sure you can understand.
Parents worry that technology is constantly changing and there are new things popping up every day that they feel like they need to be aware of (like “finsta” accounts).
But instead of trying to know everything, consider letting your teen be the expert.
Ask your teenager how to use different social media platforms (you’ll probably learn a lot in the process).
But by asking them to teach you about social media, kids are more likely to let their guard down and it’s a good opportunity to have a casual conversation on tough topics, like sexting.
Janell Burley Hofmann, author of iRules: What Every Tech-Healthy Family Needs to Know About Selfies, Sexting, Gaming and Growing Up, suggests casually bringing up things like sexting with, ‘”Fill me in on sexting. Is it common? Is it exaggerated in statistics & the media?”
By doing this, you can have an open dialogue without your teen going on the defensive or feeling like you’re lecturing them. Quite the opposite, they’ll feel like the authority figure and you’ll learn about what they think about those topics in the process. And it will leave the door wide open for a discussion and insight from you.
Hoffman points out, “The more open and accepting we are of technology as adults, the less it is used in isolation or secretly, and the more control and understanding and ultimately success we can all have with it.”
Teen & Tween Parents Problem 8: Negative Media
Violence and social difficulties are nothing new.
And yet, seems like there is a never-ending steam of negative news on television, from school shootings to terrorism.
And we are seeing growing anxiety in kids as a result of the negative news.
When speaking to school counselor Phyllis Fagell, she noted that “Kids have computers in their pockets. They’re getting their news from their peers, from their schools, from TV, from computers, and it’s a 24/7 news cycle. So I think that extra level of oversaturation is what’s different than when I was growing up in the 1980s. I was a child listening to Peter Jennings or other news anchors on TV, and it was just time constrained. So maybe it was on during dinner, and then it was off, and then I went to sleep.”
So what do you do, as parents? How do you talk to your kids about what’s going on in the news? Or do you talk to them?
Power House Family contributor Dr. Natasha Sharma weighed in:
“I am a believer, especially for young kids, so let’s say before the age of six, seven maybe even eight, no news. It’s not important for them to understand…
Most kids actually don’t really have that much interest and that’s I think what is the gift of being young and I think there’s no need to sort of interfere with that natural self-centeredness. Focus on your toys and your parents and your friends.
It’s a very uncluttered time in life. I think that to interfere with that with too many stories and all these things is kind of taking a piece of childhood away.”
Dr. Sharma isn’t alone with this advice. The American Psychological Association recommends limiting the amount of time spent watching news reports, as constant exposure can increase the anxiety and fears of kids.
Answer kids’ questions, but without getting into too many details.
The reality is that kids are going to hear what’s going on in the news, especially if a tragedy has occurred. They’re hearing snippets on the television that they may not understand, they’re hearing stories from their friends that may or may not be accurate… it’s better that they hear accurate information from you.
But don’t go overboard with the details.
Eileen Kennedy-Moore, Ph.D., author of “Smart Parenting for Smart Kids, explains that a lot of times kids misunderstand what’s happening.
“For example, if they saw a picture of men carrying guns, it looked like there was a lot of them. Let them know the gunman is not in our backyard. This is not something that’s happening at many different schools.”
Kids are going to have questions and it’s important to answer them. But you don’t need to get into the details.
For example, if there’s a school shooting, simply telling your child that someone went into the school and hurt a lot of people is sufficient. But then immediately turn around and reassure them that their school is safe and that they’re safe in their home.
Also keep in mind that age will be a big factor in whether or not kids want to talk about tragedy in the news.
As Dr. Sharma explains, “[For older kids] it’s worth always checking in to see if there are certain things your kid wants to talk to you about, even if they don’t come forward with it. And certainly, if they do come forward with things like, ‘I can’t believe those attacks in Paris or in Vegas.’ That’s an opening to definitely chat about that as a family or just one-on-one with that child.”
Teen & Tween Parents Problem 9: Mood Swings
When adults hear the word “teenager,” the first word that pops into their head is typically “moody.” The hormones are flying and the moods are a swinging. They can go from happy to raging within seconds. How do you deal with the 180-degree mood swings and are you aware that the way we deal with it impacts them for life?
But before we get into that, I think it’s helpful for parents to understand what’s going on behind the scenes (so to speak) with kids to make them seem to go from your sweet little angel to someone you don’t recognize, virtually overnight.
You probably have heard, but the brain isn’t fully developed until the age of 25 or so.
Advanced brain imaging has revealed that the teenage brain has lots of plasticity.
What does this mean, exactly?
Basically, it means that during the teen years, the brain can change, adapt and respond to its environment. While it’s not getting any larger, it is developing more connections between the different regions of the brain.
The growth in connectivity shows up as white matter in the brain and comes from a fatty substance called myelin. As the brain develops, myelin wraps around neurons, the brain’s signal-transmitting pathways, like insulation. The more insulation, the faster and clearer the signal can be transmitted.
The way to increase myelination? Practice and repetition.
So, just like we train our bodies at the gym and condition them for certain activities, we also train our brains.
This means that a child who has received instruction in sports or performing arts will strengthen healthy pathways of myelination for those activities. Likewise, when the child isn’t exposed to certain things or has damaging influences, the healthy pathways will be inhibited. Sort of a “use-it-or-lose-it” idea.
Now, you may be wondering, if these pathways begin forming when your child is born, what happens in the brain when he or she reaches the teenage years?
Dr. Daniel J. Siegel M.D. writes, “Longitudinal investigations of individuals going through the period between childhood and adulthood reveal that there is a remodeling of the brain that starts often just before the teen years begin and continues well into the mid-twenties.”
It stands to reason, though, that a remodeling zone (like the brain is in) doesn’t function the same way as it will after the reconstruction process is complete. You could compare it to a normal construction zone. The plumbing or electricity may need to be turned off for a period of time.
After the process is complete, though, the brain will be more emotionally balanced, have more wisdom and insight and the “processes resulting from integrative capacities [can] create internal well-being and interpersonal health.”
But what about the crazy teenage hormones we’ve always heard about?
Dr. Frances Jensen, chair of the University of Pennsylvania neurology department and author of The Teenage Brain: A Neuroscientists’s Survival Guide to Raising Adolescents and Young Adults explains, “Hormones causing moodiness is kind of the myth. There’s much more to the story than hormones, and that’s a really important thing to get across. It’s more about the imbalance between your frontal lobe and your limbic system than it is about the hormones that are being produced by the testes and ovaries running around in your bloodstream. There’s much more to the story than hormones.”
That said, she does add that teenage brains are “seeing levels of hormones that they’ve never seen before, and they have to learn to manage those hormones. It is a learning curve on how to manage the ups and downs of a testosterone surge or the waxing and waning of estrogen and progesterone through the menstrual cycle… Through experience, the brain will dampen the fluctuations in behavior in response to fluctuations in hormones.”
Take a look at this video where she talks about the teenage brain in detail.
So the next questions is: what do we, as parents, do to handle the mood swings?
Be reasonable with your teen.
This is different than trying to reason with him or her, because that probably won’t work. But BEING reasonable demonstrates for them a way of handling conflict and solving problems. It will also help to avoid escalating the stress, which can damage the relationship.
Try to “catch” them in positive moments.
There are going to be times when your teen is in a great mood. You can try to decrease the moodiness by attending to these positive moments. Use non-verbals like hugs as well as simple praise like, “it was great chatting with you.”
Don’t go overboard on punishments.
Keep in mind that their brain isn’t necessarily functioning at its best and that going overboard on punishments can actually have adverse effects like escape, avoidance or stronger emotional reactions. Taking away privileges is generally the best form of punishment.
Try to give a bit more freedom.
Look for areas you can compromise on, such as clothing, hairstyle or even food.
According to Alan Kazdin, Professor of Psychology and Child Psychiatry at Yale University and director of the Yale Parenting Center, “If you can show your ability to compromise and give your teenager a little more freedom, you will be more effective in areas you cannot compromise. As a guide, parents should compromise on things that are not likely to be permanent.”
Teen & Tween Parents Problem 10: Isolation
I will never forget, when I had a teen living with me for the first time, how he would walk in the door, head straight for his room and stay there for what seemed like hours. I would periodically check on him and find that he was just laying on his bed in the dark, listening to music through earbuds and looking sullen and moody.
Does this scenario sound at all familiar?
The good news? It’s totally normal.
Author and parenting expert Dr. Lisa Firestone explains, “Adolescents and teens have a natural tendency to want to separate from their parents and seek psychological autonomy. No matter how great a parent you’ve been, at some point, your teenager will pull away from you.”
Unfortunately, too many of us misread the situation and take it personally.
For example, when kids come home after school, they may seek isolation and head to their rooms and close the door.
Instead of giving them the privacy and isolation they want and need, some parents feel rejected, which can, unfortunately, cause tension in the home.
Lisa Damour, psychologist and author of “Untangled: Guiding Teenage Girls Through the Seven Transitions Into Adulthood,” explains, “Rather than understanding that teenagers are often prickly at home because they are worn out by being pleasant all day at school, parents feel that the teenager no longer likes them. Rather than accepting that it is developmentally important for teenagers to question authority, they feel that their teenagers are being disrespectful.”
Now don’t get me wrong. Teens should still be expected to be polite. But you may be able to bypass some of the stress and tension if you see the teen years as just a phase your child is passing through rather than an assault on your or your parenting.
Clinical psychologist Lucie Hemmen says that parents need to be available for their kids as a non-judgmental support system at this time.
“You may feel that you have plenty of advice, but you should talk less, lecture less and listen more.”
When should we worry?
It’s easy to understand why parents start to worry when their kid heads straight for the bedroom and the door closes. It’s a transition from child to teenager that happens seemingly overnight.
“Teens need for privacy and time alone does not necessarily mean they have something to hide,” says human-development specialist Kelly Warzinik, co-author of Family Life in 20th-Century America. “They need to be allowed to make choices and learn from their mistakes. What they do not need, however, is complete freedom and privacy.”
In other words, teens must still be monitored to make sure there isn’t a bigger problem beyond normal teenage pulling away.
Counseling psychologist Karin Steyn points out that what most parents need is an open mind. “Most teens tell me ‘I try to speak to my parents but they don’t understand me.’ Your attitude is crucial.”
This is the groundwork you want to start laying before they’re teens, ideally, helping them understand that they can come to you with anything.
Steyn says, “If your [mind] is open enough for them to feel able to come and talk to you about anything, and you keep working at that relationship, showing a genuine interest in them and their friends, likes and dislikes, many problems will simply not arise or will be dealt with before they amount to anything.”
A right to snoop?
If you see warning signs other than just wanting isolation and you think they might be struggling with depression or even hurting themselves, you have not only a right but a responsibility to go into their room.
That said, don’t snoop.
Be transparent and tell them you’re doing it.
Explain to them that you’re worried about them and that as their parent, you’re going to look in their room. Then do it. Together.
Some warning signs you should watch for include:
- Unusual irritability or moodiness
- Difficulty sleeping
- Changes in eating habits
- Falling grades
- Neglecting appearance
These are just a few signs. However, if you are concerned and noticing some of these signs in your child, it’s a good idea to seek professional help.
Final Thoughts on the Top 10 Problems that Parents of Teens & Tweens Face
Let me just start by saying, again, that there’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all when it comes to parenting. You do the best you can by your kids. You give them the best guidance, you try to be the best role model, and you try to give them all the opportunities they need in life.
But challenges do come up. And you will have those ‘Oh Sh*t’ moments that come up behind closed doors. Here are the top 10 most common problems we have identified.
- Peer Pressure
- Drug & Alcohol Use
- Depression &/Or Anxiety
- Social Media
- Negative Media
- Mood Swings
Have you faced some of these challenges in your own home? How did you handle it? We would love to hear from you! Drop us a message in the comments below.