Living with teens can be wonderful...and tricky. I talk with hundreds of parents of teenagers each year about the ups and downs of managing parent-teen relationships.
During these conversations, there are some themes I hear time and time again. Particular worries, comments or complaints are repeatedly expressed - and if I had a dollar for all of the times I've heard parents of teens say certain things, I'd be a rich woman.
What parents sometimes don't realise - is that many teenagers all across the country are doing exactly what their own teenager is doing.
So let me allow you to be a fly on the wall and tell you about the things parents say to me - time and time again. My hope is that you will feel a little more "normal" and not so alone.
Common Worries and Concerns made by Parents of Teens
"I often feel hurt and disappointed in my teens - and I hate feeling like this"
"He/she ALWAYS leave assignments to the very last minute. And then there is huge panic and stress and we all suffer!"
"I don't understand how they can spend so MANY hours talking/texting/facebook chatting to their friends. What is there left to say after spending all day at school with them and being on onlne with them all night!?!"
"I've found parenting teenagers much harder than parenting younger kids"
"It's hard to turn the internet off, because they need it for homework. But then I know he/she is on facebook half of that supposed "homework" time. If they would just focus on getting their work over and done with, they'd be done in half the time!"
"I don't understand how he/she can concentrate with the music blaring through the headphones. I worry about their hearing as well as their concentration!"
"They are completely sleep deprived - they stay up all night and then can't get up for school in the morning. The grumpiness that happens before 9am is unbelievable."
"He/she used to be such a caring kid. Now he/she doesn't seem to really understand or care about other people's needs or feelings at all. He/she is so self centred. It really upsets me"
"Nothing is ever planned in advance. No-one even RSVP's anymore. It's all last minute organisation about where they are going and what they are doing and it drives me crazy"
"He/she has no interest in showering or personal hygiene. I have to constantly nag him/her about deodorant"
"He/she will spend hours getting ready to go out. The level of grooming that goes on is unbelievable. And then the bathroom looks like a bomb has hit it"
Here's two important things to remember about struggles with teens:
1.Just because these challenges happen in many families doesn't mean they aren't painful. They are. Parenting teens is very tough - and often hurtful, disappointing and scary.
2.Just because these challenges happen in many families - doesn't mean these issues shouldn't be worked on. There are ways to help teens change their behaviour and act in more constructive ways.
But it takes a fair amount of time and effort.
Think of these challenges like you might teaching child to tie their shoelaces. It's "normal" for 4 year olds to not be able to manage this yet. We don't think the parent is doing a "bad" job because the four year old can't yet do it.
But we work on it. We don't think they will just wake up one morning and be able to do it. As parents, we expect we will have to slowly teach, coach, remind them and rehearse it with them. Sometimes stickers are required.
In the same way, many teenagers have a whole range of challenges they need help with. Many teens are not skilled at managing their emotions, thinking ahead, being aware of other people's needs, delaying gratification, concentration skills, the ability to work hard, understanding other people's perspectives and so on.
They need a whole lot of coaching, rehearsal, conversation, reminders and support to help them change. Maybe even the teen equivalent of a "sticker" or two.
This is why parenting teenagers is hard work.
And some teenagers have particular personalities, needs and challenges which make them harder work than others.
But it doesn't make them - or us - abnormal.
If you would like support with your teen, remember we see parents on their own for counselling and psycho-education sessions. Click on the button below for information about our counselling services.