Staying Calm During the Storm of Adolescence

Contributed by Dr. Lizette Gomez

As tweens turn into teens, they enter the storm of adolescence - rapidly changing bodies and minds, and a rush of new and unfamiliar feelings. As a parent, how do you stay calm and keep your teen on the path to maturity?

What is Adolescence?

Adolescence is the process of reaching maturity. This process occurs in several stages. The first stage (age 11-14) surprises many parents as they witness their sweet little child transition to a sometimes moody and feisty person who challenges parental beliefs.

During this stage, children's bodies are changing rapidly. Adolescents often feel awkward and question whether or not they are normal. Sexual interests are present, but not always understood. Friends, privacy, and current situations are their priorities, not long-term consequences.  Since their independence is emerging, they will test limits and rules to show their independence. This limit testing sets the stage for conflict between teens and parents.

Here are suggestions that might help make your interactions more effective.

Tips For Parents

  • Recognize this early stage of development and keep your cool when you receive pushback. 
  • Friends are important to your child, so find out who they are. You can keep a safe distance while monitoring their activities together. Teens might readily volunteer for outreach activities if they bring friends along or participate as a group.
  • Realize that even though teens act like they do not want you around, they still need your support, guidance and discipline.

Rules for Kids

Just as you would do for a sporting event, lay down some ground rules.

  1. Allow your teen to state their opinion in a polite manner. Yelling is not allowed. If a conflict gets to this point, nothing productive will be accomplished. Physically separate from each other until things have cooled down. This idea is the same as the traditional "time out."
  2. Allow your teen some quiet or alone time in a designated area of the house. Set rules for music volume or use of headphones. Screen time - TV, phone, computer - should be limited to allow for homework or chores.
  3. Set a curfew. If your teen violates their curfew, consequences should follow. Everyone wants to be the "cool kid," but you don't have to be the "cool parent." It's OK if your child uses you as an excuse! For example, "Sorry guys, but if I'm not home by 6:30, my parents won't let me have the car this weekend."
  4. Have some family time each day. No matter what the structure or size of your family, it's good to set aside a few minutes to discuss the day's events. The conversation might not be deep, but the benefits of a few minutes of quality time can be tremendous.

Lizette GomezAbout the Expert: Lizette Gomez, M.D., is based in the Department of Pediatrics with the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio.

For More Information

Read Help for Parents of Troubled Teens from our Parents Resource Library [go now]