Updated: Mar 24
Adolescence is often a chaotic time where, as both a teen and a parent, you’re getting thrown into the deep end. This is true now more than ever with teens and parents having to navigate a pandemic, changing school situations, and a generational shift in the way that teens interact with each other and the world through technology and social media. What I hear from parents so often is that they feel out of control and worry that their kids are getting the wrong messages from the internet and peers. What I hear from teens is they feel misunderstood and unheard. If you can imagine, teens that feel unheard plus parents who are afraid of the messages their kids are getting can sometimes lead to some tension and sometimes (often) more fear and less feeling heard. Here are some common myths that we can have about teens that can often lead to getting stuck in that fear-unheard cycle:
Myth: Adolescents are just immature and need to “grow up.”
Fact: A lot of the behavior that happens during teen years that might be considered immature is developmentally normal and important work. A key task of adolescence is identity development, and a large part of that is trying new things, testing boundaries, and beginning to explore what life will look like with more independence. The brain is also growing and changing a lot during this period as teens try and develop their executive functioning skills.
Myth: It’s a parent’s responsibility to solve any conflicts that might arise for their teen.
Fact: Adolescence is a time when teens start taking on those problem-solving skills for themselves. This is going to mean that they mess up a few times. Parental support in teenage years looks like listening, maintaining connection, and offering advice when asked for. Knowing that their parent is there for them, without judgment, to process and help sort through problems creates skills for adulthood and a lasting, sustainable relationship. Sometimes, this means setting appropriate boundaries around disrespectful or risky behavior, but I have often found that teens will surprise you with coming to a mature conclusion if you just listen as they process.
Myth: The world is too different now and I will never be able to relate to my teen.
Fact: First, I do want to acknowledge the world is very different. Secondly, so much of being a teen is the same. Figuring out who you are, what you believe, and how to manage adult tasks are still very much the same. Going back and remembering how it was for you in your teenage years, the good, bad, and ugly, can help you approach conversations with your kids from a place of empathy and compassion. Even if you don’t exactly understand what your teens are talking about, you can remember the power of having an adult that would listen and care.