Living with a Teenager

By Ailan Gates 2023-02-23 16:46:50

The wonder years of parenting an adolescent child are marked by a period of swift changes for a child between the ages of 12 and 17, whilst their parents age as much as 20 years or more.

Parents often approach this very challenging stage with tremendous angst, fear, confusion, and stress. Till now, your child has been predictable, enjoyable, communicative, fun, relatively calm and hasn’t objected too much to being in your company. Then voila! It changes without warning, and like magic the child that you knew so inherently well has been replaced with a moody, distant stranger.

Suddenly you are right bang at the beginning of the very long, ever-elusive, never-ending teenage years.

This is when your teenager would rather be in the company of their friends, their mobile phones become an appendage, they have a greater need for privacy and independence, and they become a know-it-all. They are contentious, challenging, critical of you, and non-verbal communicative including eye-rolling and muffled mutterings.

If you were thinking of getting a dog, seize the chance, as you’ll at least have someone in the house happy to see you when you walk through the door.



Where has my child gone?

Understanding the intense changes in your teen is imperative before deciding how to manage these variations. At this juncture, your child is undergoing an intense physical transformation on many levels. These variations can occur in intermissions or all at once. It is when your teen is trying to figure out who they are, whilst managing the roller coaster of hormonal fluctuations. A time when egocentrism dominates, propelling them to move towards the desire for independence. It’s nature’s way of also preparing parents to becoming empty nesters and letting go of the apron strings.

Thus, it’s now more than ever that as parents we need to give our teen the chance to spread their wings within reason. This might mean there’s a likelihood that failure is sometimes inevitable. But not trying to control everything for your child, especially when you know they are hurting, is perhaps one of the most difficult things any parent can do. However, the reward will be that your teen will learn from their mistakes, learn about accountability and consequence, and hopefully learn to overcome obstacles on their own. Remember if you fix their problems today, where will that leave them tomorrow?



There are no quick fixes when it comes to being the parent of a teenager. Trust me, I know from experience of raising three of my own. All you can offer your teenager is loads of forgiveness, grace, and leeway to establish their own identities. My personal lessons include deciding very carefully what battles to choose (what rules to adhere to or let go of), continue to role model (your actions are more powerful than words), keep communication open (don’t interrogate but inquire), get to know their friends, decide collectively on rules and consequences together, give them age-appropriate autonomy but with regular check-ins, celebrate accomplishments that no one else sees and most importantly give unconditional love.