Have you ever felt like your sweet cherub of a child suddenly is having a strange reaction to you? Did it coincide with the day they became a teenager? My feelings about this were affirmed in an article I read on parenting teens from the New York Times. It likened the classic teenage disdain for their parents to the teen suddenly becoming “allergic” to their parent.
Call it what you may, but any parent of a teenager knows the feeling of being pushed away. What’s hard to remember is that this is their developmental job at this stage. In order for them to grow up someday and become an adult, teens really do need to separate as individuate from their care-givers. They need to have their own ideas and their own opinions and their own initiatives. And, they often need to reject us in this process of clarifying who they truly are.
This is not a warm and fuzzy process to live through, like the first time they tied their own shoes was. We, the parents, need to put our egos on the shelf and remember that our children ultimately are working on an important shift in life. And we need to remember it when they disagree with us so vehemently; when they dismiss of all our suggestions (with or without an eye roll); when they try not to be seen with us; when they make merciless fun of our shoes.
Pick your Battles
This shift in the parent/child relationship can catch us off guard. Those who enjoyed being idealized by their child can feel hurt when the child now prefers to get advice from someone else (whom they admire more). As much as these changes can feel threatening, we, the parents, can actually help our kids separate from us. We can support this developmentally normative stage by accepting the new ideas our teens are trying on (unless they are doing things that are dangerous or illegal).
When they want to wear stuff that looks ridiculous to you…bite your tongue. When they are eating at McDonalds with their friends, when you were hoping for a healthier choice…bite your tongue. If all the changes they need to make to grow-up become a power struggle, they will start doing more and more things in secret or behind your back. And that’s not good for anyone. As much as they want to break away, they also want us to be there when they do need us. And that’s our job. For now.
Read the full article here, Why Teenagers Become ‘Allergic’ to Their Parents