Those terrible adolescents

Just like toddlers, adolescence can be a challenging time, parenting columnist Ian Munro writes. 

Today, an issue I've touched on before. It's about a colleague who had been stunned by his eldest turning on him for no apparent reason.

It felt like all the things he thought he'd been doing right for 14 years had been thrown back in his face.

At the time I told him that there would be much more of that to come, but it was great it was happening. He was not cheered by that and reminded me of that conversation recently.

Adolescence and emotional turmoil go hand in hand for parents and teenagers.

It's a time when parental values are questioned, boundaries tested and our attitudes mocked.

It also reminded me of a mother who reckoned her son had an internal radar system that could tell him at any given moment what would irritate her. He spent most of his communication with his parents ranting about how he hated everything about his life. They didn't have a decent car, didn't have Sky and Mum, being on the board of trustees, was "down at school every second minute''.

Adolescence is like starting over and reliving those "terrible twos''. Except that, at close to six feet in height as in my colleague's case, when they ask "why?'' they mean it.

If you don't come up with the right answer you can be in for anything from a long, exhausting debate to an explosion of volcanic proportions. And when a teen slams a door, you know about it.

Despite these outbursts, they still need us just as much as they did when they were toddlers, even to the point of having to be taught all over again how to clean their teeth and fold and put away their clothes.

We're faced with trying to balance the setting of boundaries and ensuring their safety, with the need to let them go; to allow them to grow their independence and their confidence to face the world on their own. We have to recognise that we can't shield them forever. They have to test new waters and practise fending for themselves.

It's just that they practise on us and usually at a moment when we really don't feel like being practised on.

However, our teenagers are adults in training and we're the trainers. If it's not going to be us that they're bouncing off, then it will be someone else, perhaps less desirable.

My colleague is on the other side of it now and agreed that it was a time when he and his wife had been forced to rethink what was important to them, reassess their role as parents and assess the new and changing needs of both their teenagers on that final stretch to adulthood.

Add a Comment