Teens -A method in the madness
Saanich News, June 21, 2006
Paul Beckow M.Sc. R.P.C.
Individual couple and Family Counsellor
It’s a total struggle between me and my 14 year old these days. He doesn’t listen. He ignores his responsibilities. We quarrel over almost anything. Sometimes he is rude and angry then disappears to his room for hours. We are all miserable. What can I do?
First of all, Gail, if it’s any comfort, you are not alone. These challenges are occurring in lots of family homes; many parents are experiencing the very same struggles as you are.
Most people do not to speak openly about the conflicts and disenchantment that can be so much a part of adolescent family life. Many parents simply bear these stresses and frustrations privately.
It can be an unsettling difficult time.
Because nothing matters as much to us as our relationship with our children. We are so invested and committed. We have so many cherished hopes, dreams, and expectations for our children. And just when we are hoping and expecting a new kind of ease in companionship with our growing-up youngster, the relationship suddenly becomes messy, entangled, and emotionally charged. This leaves many parents feeling hurt and disappointed.
Further, when confronted with this kind of conflict, we can become very critical of ourselves. In our shock and bewilderment, we can tell ourselves all sorts of frightening things that bring us further judgment, worry, and guilt.
Basically we’re convinced that all the discord and conflict has to mean there’s definitely something wrong here. Something wrong with our child - with us - or both. We’re certain we’ve failed somehow.
So point number one Gail: These troubles do not mean you are failing. There is a developmental plan in all this madness. The conflict, and the distance it creates, has a very important and valuable purpose.
These new struggles are designed to undo the relationship you have had, unravel it in every way and, over time, replace it with a relatedness based on entirely new understandings, new ways of communicating and interacting with one another.
The disequilibrium is your relationship with your growing-up child evolving to a whole new form. Yet to begin this transformation, the “old” has to give way.
So, first, nothing is necessarily going wrong.
Point number two: Most families go through a period with an adolescent son or daughter in which they have trouble living together; and most young people, including the ones who become really difficult or “lost to their parents”, make a psychological return later, find their way, are fine in life, and reconnect as friends with their parents.
But what is causing all the fracas and fussing?
A new imperative appears, a new principle in your adolescent’s life. They are now driven to make it very clear to all that - YOU ARE NOT IN CHARGE OF THEM ANYMORE!
They can demonstrate this in a wide variety of ways - through: resisting, ( means just not doing ) what you’ve asked, being unmoved by discipline, taking interest in things that are far removed from your values and ideals, fighting and quarrelling for “their rights”, finding embarrassment in your ways and making you wrong ; disappearing and not communicating, turning to their peers for their sense of themselves.
They begin to listen to you like most anything you say to them is an attempt to try to control, dominate, or be in charge of them - treat them like they are still small. And it’s true. Much of the time you are trying to check up on them, teach them something, give them direction, fix or correct them.
To repeat: the essential feature of all this fuss and conflict is a clear call upon parents to discover some entirely new ways of relating to your adolescent, to learn new principles and skills. These new skills and principles result in a whole new way of understanding your youngster, of being with them, of talking and listening together.
As you express and demonstrate your understanding about your changing relationship with these new skills, you begin to minimize the troubling patterns of interaction with your teenager. You both begin to find new ways to settle things together.
Just what some of these new understandings and skills are will be the topic of the next two columns of Lets Talk.
Paul Beckow is a certified individual, marriage, and family therapist. If you have a relationship, personal issue or concern, he can be reached by phoning the Victoria Family Institute at 721 2477 or contacted through his web site at www.paulbeckow.com1>
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For personal or couple counselling, for more information, or to register for a course - please contact Paul Beckow at The Victoria Family Institute.