Many years ago, I heard someone compare raising teenagers to trying to nail Jell-O to a tree, and I found the mental image of trying to pin down that slimy, delicious, goop both hilarious and the comparison remarkably accurate. Just when you think you’ve got it figured out, a new problem pops up.
Parenting teens is tough work, but it can also be very rewarding. Watching young people learn and grow and acquire new skills can be so gratifying. As parents, we tend to worry about how our kids will function as adults when they can’t seem to figure out how to put their dirty silverware in the sink, rather than the trash can. We see that pile of dirty clothes on their floor and wonder if they will ever connect the dots between those dirty clothes and the need to Febreeze their bedroom every day.
But, eventually, those silly, stinky kids do grow up to be functioning adults. In fact, the teen years speed by, and next thing you know, those teenagers are 18 and (fingers crossed) looking forward to launching into adulthood. In order to help you make the most of the time you have with your teen, here are 3 things your teenager wants you to know:
1.Leave them alone. Well, not really alone. Often, I hear from teens that they appreciate when their caregivers ask them what is going on, but they sometimes just do not want to talk about the nitty, gritty details of their lives. Developmentally, teens need time to process their thoughts and feelings before they are able to verbalize them. So, when your teen yells, “Just leave me alone,” reassure them that you are there for them and give them some space.
2.No, they cannot survive without their phones. Parents tell me all the time that they do not understand why their teen is “glued” to their phone because they didn’t have a cell phone when they were that age, and they were just fine. While it is easy to compare your teen’s experience with your own experience as a teenager, that’s really just like comparing apples to oranges. The world was different when you were a teenager, but the developmental needs were pretty much the same. Teens need social interaction for healthy development, and texting and social media is how that interaction occurs now.
3.You are still their world. As much as teenagers try to act like their parents are ‘cringe’ and ‘lame,’ they are still as dependent on you as when they were toddlers. Their specific needs have changed, but their need for you hasn’t. Instead of cutting up their grapes or refilling their juice cups, they now need you to teach them to drive and help them navigate the world. It may not always seem like it, but I promise your teenager loves you more than anything or anyone else in the entire world. They just may not know how to show it all the time.
Brittney Homann, MSW, MS Ed., LCSW, has over 15 years of experience working with children and their families in Central Illinois. She graduated from Eastern Illinois University with a BS in Special Education in 2004 and a MS in Education in 2013. Brittney completed the MSW program at UIUC in 2019, and she has extensive training and experience in treating childhood and family-based trauma, anxiety, depression, disruptive behaviors, and other mental health disorders. Brittney is LBGTQ+ affirming and welcomes children and adolescents with co-occurring Autistic or cognitive disorders, as well as parents/caregivers and young adults.