What to Do When Your Teen Seems Like a Stranger
- Whitney Hopler Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
- Updated Sep 24, 2014
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 Is your teen: moody, irritable, unpredictable, manipulative, argumentative, withdrawn, self-absorbed, dramatic, dismissive, rejecting you in order to gain acceptance from peers, anxious, grasping for power in destructive ways, joining an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.
Do your best to answer your teen’s questions. Listen carefully to your teen whenever he or she shares thoughts and feelings with you, and encourage your teen to ask you questions about any topic. When your teen does come to you with questions, do your best to answer them, even if the topic is something uncomfortable for you, such as sexuality. Remember, if you don’t answer your teen’s questions, your teen will go to others for answers and may be given information that doesn’t reflect biblical truth and lead to harmful situations. Keep in mind that teen girls need to know why a particular decision is wise, whereas teen boys need to know how to implement wise decisions into their lives.
Support your teen’s physical health. Your teen will be best able to handle all the changes in his or her life if you help set healthy habits to support your teen’s physical health. Those habits should include: eating healthy, getting plenty of exercise, taking nutritional supplements, drinking lots of water, and getting plenty of sleep.
Get your teen help if you notice dangerous behaviors in his or her life. Be on the alert for dangerous behaviors such as cutting and other forms of self-injury, smoking, shoplifting, aggressive anger that hurts others, persistent anxiety, eating disorders, use of alcohol or other drugs, depression, premarital sex (and the pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases that can result), bullying, and academic problems. Any of these issues may mean that your teen needs more help than you can provide. Seek help for your teen through resources such as your primary care physician, your school system, and private counselors, keeping mind that getting help will involve spending time, energy, and money, but doing so is often worthwhile. Create a strong support system for your teen that includes family, friends, and professionals who are all working together to help your teen.
Help your teen emerge from a crisis of belief victoriously. You have tremendous power to help your teen spiritually if you model a faithful life to him or her. Show your teen how you’re trying to rely on God to live a faithful life, confess and repent of your sins, and grow to become the person God wants you to become. Let your teen see you pray and do your best to follow where God leads you, and also to accept God’s grace and learn from your mistakes when you fail. Give your testimony of faith to your teen and share important spiritual truths you’ve learned, but also be open and honest about your doubts and struggles. Let your teen know that it’s safe to talk about his or her faith with you, and listen carefully whenever that happens. Participate with your teen in a healthy church and serve others together as God leads. Encourage your teen to seek and fulfill God’s purposes for his or her life. Pray regularly for your teen’s relationship with God.
Trust God with your teen. Keep in mind that God knows and loves your teen even more than you do, and He is constantly at work in your teen’s life to draw him or her closer to Him. So trust God to intervene and do what’s best in each situation in your teen’s life when you pray about your concerns.
Adapted from When Your Teenager Becomes … The Stranger in Your House, copyright 2011 by Gregory L. Jantz, Ph.D., with Ann McMurray. Published by David C. Cook, Colorado Springs, Co., http://www.davidccook.com/.
Dr. Gregory L. Jantz is an internationally recognized bestselling author of 26 books and mental health expert. Dr. Jantz is the Founder of The Center for Counseling and Health Resources, Inc., known as "A Place of Hope," a leading healthcare facility based in Seattle. The treatment center offers therapy programs for individuals, teens, families, and even celebrities who struggle with issues such as addiction, stress, abuse, depression, PTSD, weight loss, unhealthy body image, and relationship problem. Visit his website at: http://www.drgregoryjantz.com/.
Whitney Hopler is a freelance writer and editor who serves as both a Crosswalk.com contributing writer and the editor of About.com’s site on angels and miracles (http://angels.about.com/). Contact Whitney at: firstname.lastname@example.org to send in a true story of an angelic encounter or a miraculous experience like an answered prayer.