What to Do When Your Teen Seems Like a Stranger
- Friday, October 21, 2011
Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Gregory L. Jantz, Ph.D.'s book, When Your Teenager Becomes … The Stranger in Your House, (B & H Publishing Group, 2011).
The emotional rollercoaster of going through adolescence can take a toll on both you and your teen, causing so much stress that it can strain your relationship – just at the time that your teen is changing significantly and rapidly. You may reach a point where you no longer recognize the teen who lives with you as the child you raised before, because he or she simply isn’t acting like the same person.
But if your teen seems like a stranger, he or she doesn’t have to remain that way. You can repair your relationship with your teen while also helping him or her successfully navigate the storms of adolescence. Here’s how:
Don’t pull away from your teen. No matter how frustrating your teen becomes to deal with or how much he or she seems to be pushing you away, your teen still needs your love, support, and guidance. Decide to put the effort into reaching out to your teen; that effort will eventually prove to be worthwhile. Pray for the encouragement, patience, and wisdom you need to remain committed to parenting your teen during these difficult times.
Identify which troubling behaviors are affecting your teen. Study your teen and determine which specific kinds of behaviors concern you in his or her life. Is your teen: moody, irritable, unpredictable, manipulative, argumentative, withdrawn, self-absorbed, dramatic, dismissive, rejecting you in order to gain acceptance from peers, anxious, grasping for power in destructive ways, joining an unhealthy group, physically awkward, overwhelmed, insecure, or struggling with another issue? How do your teen’s troubling behaviors make you feel? Recognize that the way you respond to your teen’s behavior helps shape the relationship you have with him or her.
Stay calm. Don’t lash out at your teen after he or she lashes out at you. Instead, pray for the peace you need to remain calm when you’re confronted with your teen’s emotional outbursts. Your teen needs you to show him or her how to respond wisely to emotionally charged situations, rather than simply reacting to them.
Adjust your expectations to make sure they’re realistic. Keep in mind that your teen isn’t yet capable of being as reasonable or disciplined as an adult. Your teen is going through lots of hormonal changes that significantly affect him or her both emotionally and physically. Plus, your teen is testing different types of decisions to try to answer burning questions about who he or she is and how he or she should best relate to others. All of this turmoil can lead your teen to make choices that seem foolish to you. Don’t expect your teen to make mature choices before he or she truly matures. Instead, ask God to give you the strength you need to love your teen unconditionally and give your teen both guidance and grace.
Take responsibility for your own contributions to your teen’s problems. Face the hard truth that your own weaknesses as a parent have contributed in some ways to the problems that your teen is dealing with right now. But don’t let that realization cause you shame, since all parents have weaknesses and God doesn’t expect you to be perfect, just honest. Go to your teen and apologize for the specific ways you’ve let him or her down as a parent, and let your teen know that you plan to rely on God to help you become a better parent. Ask your teen to forgive you for your mistakes. Then follow up by praying for God’s help to parent in better ways, and following where He leads you every day. Your honesty and sincere effort to change will do a lot to heal your relationship with your teen.
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