Almost overnight, your teen has transformed from a sweet, loving child into a surly adolescent. But never fear—she still loves you.
“At the heart of it, teenagers really do want to have a relationship with their parents,” says Catherine Hutter, PhD, pediatric psychologist with St. Louis Children’s Hospital. “But they’re also trying to be their own person and establish their own identity.”
That’s important to keep in mind the next time your teenager acts…teenager-y. Don’t let these common myths rule your reactions to those situations:
Myth: My teenager hates me.
“Developmentally, teenagers know they are dependent on their parents, but they don’t like it,” Dr. Hutter says. “That creates conflict.”
Teenagers are trying to figure out who they are, and what may feel like hatred is really a teenager trying to establish his individuality.
“Part of learning to be their own person means rejecting the identity of their parents and doing things parents may not approve of,” she says. “That’s not a reflection of the parent, but simply another developmental milestone such as walking or talking.”
Myth: If my teenager acts out now, it’ll only get worse as she gets older.
“Many parents think perfectly normal teenage behavior is disastrous,” says Dr. Hutter. “But teenagers are essentially going through a second toddlerhood—their brains are changing a lot. They’re trying out their wings, just like toddlers.”
That means that teenagers may do things that aren’t smart or make friends who are “bad influences,” but it’s really their way of letting out their assertive side. Just pay attention to frequency and severity: If a teenager is engaging in risky behaviors over a long period of time or, even more importantly, if the behaviors are interfering with daily functioning, it’s time to seek help from a family physician or mental health professional.
Myth: This phase will never end.
The good news is that as teens mature physically and emotionally, the tumultuous teen years will soon become a thing of the past.
“Just take each day as it comes and enjoy watching your child develop into a young adult,” Dr. Hutter says. “Turning everything into a calamity does not help.”