Parent tips for the roller coaster ride of raising teens

img_5272

We’re past the roller coaster ride of the teen years. Onward to the quarter-life crisis.

Has any parent not witnessed the eye rolls, backtalk or even a door slam? Most of the time my kids were wonderful. But we had our moments. I especially remember a tough period with my son where I said things I would love to take back. I didn’t mean those words but I was frustrated beyond belief with his behavior. That’s not an excuse, but it’s a pretty accurate assessment that I felt out of control. I heard from one friend that when our kids get ready to leave the nest they work on pushing us away.

Today I read “3 Myths About Your Teen’s Bad Attitude” in Time Magazine by Alan Kazdin and learned that our kids are not acting out on purpose. “Alan Kazdin is Sterling Professor of Psychology and Child Psychiatry at Yale University and director of the Yale Parenting Center; he is a former President of the American Psychological Association and teaches a course open to the public on Coursera: Everyday Parenting: The ABCs of Child Rearing.”

According to Kazdin, our young adults are going through development changes and are not in control of how they treat us. Of course, we’d all prefer civility and want our child back, but give it time and space and they will once again be the people we love to be around. In the article, he gives a few tips on how to make the situation better not worse. He says to focus on the positive things and don’t be heavy-handed with punishment. If we rely too much on punishment, our kids may resort to worse actions to escape punishment or pull further away from us. His third tip is to compromise. Find something that you previously said “absolutely not” to and give in. Kazdin also makes the point that the developmental changes take place at different ages with adolescents.

His tips may seem contrary to what you’d like to do, but he says they are effective. Our goal is to change the annoying and troubling behavior of our teens and bring them closer to us, not make it worse.

Here are some excerpts about three myths Kazdin brings up about our adolescents:

3 Myths about Teenage Attitude

1. Your teenager’s behavior is deliberate.

It may be of little consolation, but your teenage daughter has little control over the bad attitude. She is not manipulating you on purpose or spending all that time in her room scheming about new ways to annoy you. In fact, she too is a victim — of all sorts of biological and psychological changes over which she has little control. She is going through a rollercoaster of adolescence, and you are on the ride with her.

As an important example of what is going on, the brain changes are extensive: more rapid development of the brain areas and functions that increase impulsivity, risk-taking and being influenced by peers. Those areas of the brain structure and functioning that we wish would be well established, such as self-control, restraining oneself and making decisions rationally, are coming online more slowly and will not be more fully developed until later adolescence.

2. Reasoning with the teenager will help.

Reason rarely persuades anybody to do things we know we should do — such as exercising or avoiding fast foods. It is even less likely to work with your teenager, considering all those developmental changes.

However, it is wonderful to be reasonable with your teen. It demonstrates for them a way of thinking, handling conflict and solving problems, and it can have longer-lasting effects on how your eventual adult approaches life.

3. Punishment will change the behaviors and attitudes you want to get rid of.

Teenagers may simply isolate themselves even more and have even less time with the family and in the presence of a parent. That will decrease the chances of a positive influence.

IMG_8813

Hiking with my son this past summer. 

How do you handle it when your young adult is rude and no longer wants to hang out with the family?

How to Help Your Grad Avoid Angst and Anxiety

katsleep

We’re approaching countdown days for my daughter Kat’s high school senior year. These last few months are busy, hectic and getting busier. She seems, how shall I put this? A tad bit cranky.

I’ve shared my son’s senior year with you in “My Son Wrote about his Crazy Mom for his Senior Project.” I have no intention of reliving that experience with Kat!

csf

What is it about the senior year that turns the smiliest kids into negative nellies?  Why do they hurl hurt at the ones who love them?

My daughter came into the world in fits of colic. I’ll never forget holding her screaming, wiggling little body for months — never able to calm or soothe her. Good meaning friends would say, “try the football hold,”  “press her tummy,” or “give her castor oil.” The moment my husband walked through the door I’d pass her off in the football hold, “Here! Take her!”

By 5:05 p.m. he’d pass her back, “I can’t take this!” and he’d leave the house. Relief would come to me around midnight, when the bright orange-red baby would fall asleep.  Miraculously, one day her colic passed — and I am not making this up — it was on her Baptism day.

katyawn

From that day on — until a couple weeks ago — I’ve had the pleasure and joy to be Kat’s mom. So what’s going on now to have her continually snipe at me?  I have joked with other moms that kids act out to make separation easier for us. We’ll push them out the door happily when the time comes.

IMG_4888

Last night, my husband urged Kat to sit down and talk with me. We sat on a double-wide chaise lounge in the backyard and she apologized for being so snarky. She confessed there is a lot going on and sometimes she feels out of control!

First, she told me that a good friend isn’t acting like a friend. This is someone she’s been close to for years. We had a discussion about how friendships change and it’s not anyone’s fault.

Second, kids and teachers from school question her college choice. I beg you all —  parents and kids: “People choose colleges for many different reasons, and we have no right to second guess or challenge their choices!” She could have gone to any number of prestigious schools and she picked the one that felt right. That’ s all we need —  throw in doubt when a kid has made a great choice! Don’t go there!

Third, she has normal fears of leaving home for the first time, like leaving friends and her home.

She also said I need to man up and not be so emotional about it, too!

My advice to parents of seniors, is talk to your kids about what they might be afraid of and what is stressing them out. Realize that you are going through a transitional phase, too. We need to give our kids space, but be there for them when they need a shoulder to lean or cry on.

Photos in order: My daughter in a peaceful moment during the colic days, my son and friends, Kat’s big yawn (thankfully not a cry), and my happy kids during the greatest days of my life.
images-2

What is your child anxious about going away to college?  I’d like to create a top ten list and your input will help!