Read an Excerpt
Excerpt from Chapter1: Teenager on board
The teenage years are a delight to many parents and other adults. They can see the unfolding miracle of life in the intense aliveness, sprouting bodies, good humor, expanding maturity, and evolving independence in their young people. They like teenagers and celebrate their talents and creativity. These adults take in their stride the ups and downs of dealing with the bursting energy, the vitality, and the challenges. Also, many parents look forward to sharing all sorts of wonderful experiences during this time, both with their co-parents and with their children.
This is not, however, the side of things that we tend to hear and see reported. Generally, we are exposed much more to parents and others who are struggling with or troubled by their teenagers. And given what teenagers often do, this is completely understandable.
The truth is that lots of parents have difficulty coping with the great variety of emotional, practical, and other pressures that arise naturally with teenagers. Many go through years of tension, worry, anguish, anger, fear, frustration, or hopelessness. These feelings arise as they try to manage and care for their teenagers, to keep them safe, and to help them learn to live in the grown-up world.
An unexpected response
Here is a surprise: many parents, even those at their wits' end, do not seek help. Given the level of discomfort caused and how long they endure it, this is remarkable. Naturally, as parent educators, we have wondered about the explanation for this, since help is at hand and so many people could avoid so much discomfort so easily.
Getting help is cool
Many, perhaps most, teenagers put lots of energy into keeping up appearances. It is very uncool for them to show that they are affected by what is going on around them. This might mean hiding their delight, ignorance, upset, confusion, doubt, interest in others, or their problems. At times, some go to enormous lengths to cover up their feelings.
Clearly, they need to get help at these times. This is probably more obvious to us than to them, however, because they are right in the middle of their own feelings and struggles. We could even spell it out for them, if they would listen: "I think you need to express those feelings. You aren't stupid. You're a wonderful person. Also, you need to learn how to take care of what causes the feelings. This only takes simple steps and we can take them together."
Put another way, we are saying, "Your problems can be solved; you're wonderful; you can do it; and I'll help." But it is so uncool for them to show any of this, or even to be upset in the first place, that as parents we may need to act with considerable determination to get through their "barriers." Happily, as we persist sensitively, teenagers generally respond by opening up, learning what they need to, and becoming more relaxed about showing what is going on with them.
This can take years!
The uncool virus
While this kind of resistance is familiar to parents and to adults who have a lot to do with teenagers, there is something that many adults do not know. We can easily catch the uncool virus ourselves from teenagers or other parents. It is highly contagious. Transmission occurs simply through talking and other social contact. And the consequences are potentially serious, both for us and for the teenagers.
Above all, the main symptom is that we do not seek the help we need. In other words, we act like teenagers. So what is the cure?
Somehow, in the midst of our reluctance, embarrassment, uncertainties, self-consciousness, frustrations, fears, doubts, or hopes that things will change for the better very soon, we need to get ourselves to act. We need to be willing to act uncool, so we can solve our problems. Once we have, we will generally realize that seeking help was not as risky as it seemed it would be before we acted.
Fortunately, there are lots of options for finding help, including:
- books, magazines, newspapers
- experienced relatives or friends
- parenting classes and courses
- chatrooms and bulletin and notice boards (on the Internet)
- whole websites on parenting teenagers
- professional advice
- parent advice groups and telephone services.
However, to decide to get help, we need to understand that it is worthwhile. Simply knowing what is available is not always enough. Only direct experience truly works. So, if you need help, we urge you to go and get it, even if it is not easy for you.