So your child is a teenager. If this is your first time as a parent of a teenager, then be prepared: you’re a little like Katniss about to compete in the Hunger Games: You might make it out alive, but you’ll be scarred for life. This is, of course, a little overly dramatic; but you have a teenager, so get used to drama.
You may wonder why your teen is obsessed with having the right clothes/shoes/cell phone. Are they just materialistic? Look deeper; you’ll probably find that their desire for the designer purse or new tech gadget is less about those specific things and more about being like everybody else. They are insecure and struggling to fit in, and the next best thing to fitting in is not standing out.
In addition, you’ll probably have to deal with the dreaded teenage attitude. The eye rolls, the irritability, the whining; it’s all part of that glorious transition from teen to adult. They’re struggling to figure out who they are and at the same time dealing with hormonal mood swings that remind you of Baby Jack-Jack in The Incredibles. Don’t take it personally.
Also, remember that at one point or another, they’ll exercise bad judgment. Just like they did when they were toddlers, they will test limits and take risks. As much as you long to protect them, let them make personal choices (as long as they’ll be safe) and experience the natural consequences of their actions. Let them choose their own clothes and hairstyle, even if it makes you cringe. Don’t discourage them from trying out for the school musical, even if their singing voice is awful. Let them try out for a new sport, even if you’re afraid they’ll fail spectacularly. They’ll learn their limits. They might even surprise you.
Finally, you may be tempted to tell them your own stories of adolescence. Resist that urge. These stories are usually variations on the following themes:
You can probably see why your teenager doesn’t want to hear any of the above. They don’t believe for a second that you understand what it’s like to be them, and your experiences will seem completely irrelevant. Instead, acknowledge that the teenage years can be painful, and ask “How can I help?”
The teenage years are difficult, and although your own teen stories won’t help your teenager, they might help you. Remember all the times you felt awkward, scared, stressed, angry, or lonely. Give your child love and support, and when you’re losing patience, remind yourself that although the teen years are tough, they won’t last forever.