Just “Grow” With It

Parenting teenagers is always a challenge given how fast and quickly they change from one developmental stage to another. Adolescence has three stages: early, middle, and late , all with different developmental goals that must be met in order to shift to the next stage which may, or may not, correspond to their chronological age but more representative to their emotional age. For example a 15 year old who still acts and behaves like a 13 year old. As parents, our basic job at this point in their development is to help them “weather the storm” until they end up as young adults with brains finally fully developed. Making matters even more complicated is that one of the consistent developmental goals throughout Adolescence is something called Individuation meaning becoming separate and unique from anyone else, including us parents. Therefore, our attempts to help them weather their storms often isn’t met with gratefulness but with resistance, namely ambivalence about allowing us to help even if we actually have a solution that they agree with. 

Conflict is a social form of resistance. Two entities in opposition. Molecularly, a positive and a negative ion. Put them together and the end result is negative. The laws of science teach us that resolution is based on decreased resistance. When this flows together, growth is possible. Resistance either stops growth or seriously slows it down. The first step in reducing conflict is trying to understand why the other side doesn’t want to play nice. In this case, we know it is due to a combination of biological and emotional growth mixed with the desire to figure it out themselves even if they don’t have the tools to do so. Step 2 is trying to find a way to interact without causing conflict and resistance. 

This is where the function of parallel play comes in handy in parenting teenagers. It’s a form of “hanging out” without talking, yet together doing something in the same place. For example, watching Sports Center together ; comfortably silent in the car together or anything that involves mutual experience without direct interaction. In a teenager’s mind, this counts as meaningful time together because they see this as an acceptance of who they are by our comfort just being together with them without asking them too many questions or pouting when we feel rejected by them. Of course , as parents we want to collaborate with our teens , but, they prefer when we just “ride along”. Resistance lessens when fighting stops. As long as teenagers are healthy and progressing in their development, parents can gain more time and affection from their teens when they “trust” the system and grow along rather than feel both hurt and frustrated. 

One of the common fundamentals of some who experience an “empty nest syndrome”, is that lack of individual acceptance of their child and perhaps even disappointment. Not being able to grow through the developmental changes along with one’s child can create a disconnect that can last a lifetime. Interestingly, parents with grow with their kids often never experience an “empty nest”, because their children continue to interact and see their parents and the nest , or close family unit, remains and continues to grow and even expand over time allowing for a closeness with one’s children which is not possible if resistance continues to exist between parents and their children. 

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