Next season Family Matters will dedicate an episode to Parenting Teens. Adolescence is a challenging time for both parents and their teens, fraught with issues around substance abuse, sexuality, peer pressure, and self image. Parents have to help their teen to become independent, responsible adults; this involves a difficult balance between giving their teen reasonable boundaries, but also the room to grow and develop their own identity and independence.
School is a complicating factor when helping a teen on their path to independence. It’s the place teens live together for a significant part of their day. Within the school there is a distinct society among the students, and it exposes teens to the many issues previously mentioned. Since parents have a very limited ability to influence what happens at school, it is no doubt many worry about all the possible negative influences their teen might be exposed to. Teen substance abuse, pregnancy, bullying, depression, and suicide are prevalent issues among many teens. Parents should be asking what schools are doing to address these issues.
Although parents have a limited ability to influence what happens at school, they aren’t helpless. Good communication between parents and teens goes a long way. Many experts recommend that parents speak about issues to their kids at a younger age, before they are exposed first-hand to those issues. This helps a teen to recognize the parents’ concerns when they do get exposed to an issue. It also helps the teen to handle situations more responsibly, and makes it easier for a teen to talk to their parents about those issues.
The difficult balance between giving reasonable boundaries to teens and giving them room to grow as an individual is a monumental task for parents. Every teen is different, so those reasonable boundaries will be different depending on that teen’s needs, desires, and personality. Boundaries are fought and argued over, making these decisions extremely stressful and possibly damaging on a parent-teen relationship. This issue gets further complicated in families with more than one child, where one teen will expect the same treatment as another. Giving more strict boundaries to one teen, who may even need stricter boundaries, can seem like favoritism in their eyes.
Teens expose parents to difficult tasks and decisions every day. This article examines only a shallow and narrow grasp of what parents go through. The most anyone can expect of parents is their best effort and judgment. Teens should also try to recognize and understand why these decisions are so difficult in order to better address their parents’ concerns. If both sides offer good, two-way empathetic communication, they can work together through the issues adolescence brings.