Psychology for Living

Gwen Randall-Young
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Getting through your teens

"I hate my parents!" "My Mom is such a bitch!" "They're just soooo stuuuupid!!!"

If you have ever said or thought these kinds of thoughts about your parents then you are going through "THE STAGE." You need to relax and cool your language, because talking rudely to parents is not OK, but you can be assured that these kinds of thoughts are within the normal range of feelings you might have anywhere between the ages of 13 and 18 years.

During these years, many things become distorted and exaggerated. Because you are at that point where how you look and what others think about you is much more important than it used to be, you may tend to be a little more critical of yourself.

You might want everything to be perfect: your hair, your face, your clothes, and your parents. You are perhaps more emotional than you used to be. Hormones are raging, and you may feel more pressures at school and from peers, and more may be expected of you at home. You may feel that it's difficult enough sorting out your life, and this in itself is a full-time job, and you don't need any hassles from parents.

Just at this point, parents seem to decide that you need more advice and direction than ever before. Most of this is stuff you do not want. You might have a particular facial expression which shows them how impressed you are with their options. Or a choice remark.

In any case, the next thing you hear is that you have an attitude problem. Attitude problems are a little like bad breath. People who have them usually don't know, but everyone else does. So it's worth checking out. Parents sometimes have attitude problems too, but it is not usually wise to tell them that.

Attitude problems usually develop when people don't say what they really mean, and when they cover up their real feelings with anger. Few people know how to express or hear anger in healthy ways, so it is best to cool off and get the anger under control before discussing the issue.

It is helpful to learn to decode what your parents are really saying. "Don't you have any homework?" means "I'm afraid that if you don't keep up you won't do well in school and then you won't get a good job, and you'll live the rest of your life in poverty." "You have to be in by 11 p.m." means "I worry about you when you're not here. There are so many more serious things for teens to deal with now than when we were your age. We know there is a lot of pressure out there, and we get scared when we don't know where you are or who you are with." "I don't want you driving, drinking etc..." means "I am so afraid of accidents, so many kids get killed, I want you to be safe."

You see, before you were born, your parents worried about you making it out into the world all right. It was only a short trip, but they couldn't know for sure that you were safe until they held you in their arms.

And now you are beginning another journey into the world, only this time they don't get to wrap you in a blanket and take you home. This time they have to slowly let you go. They can't be out there to protect you like they were the first time you crossed the street. And so they panic.

They panic because they love you so much, and would be devastated if anything happed to you. Some parents are afraid to admit that, so they just act tough instead. So, the next time you feel so angry with them, try to imagine them holding you as a baby.

Try to understand that they're holding on because they love you. When they seem angry, understand that they might be scared; it's confusing dealing with a teenager who is changing so fast.

Remember that you are both going through a stage, and it won't be like this forever. If you can lighten up, they probably will too.

Gwen Randall-Young is an author and award-winning Psychotherapist. For permission to reprint this article, or to obtain books or CDs, visit www.gwen.ca

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