There are adults, and there are teenagers.

There are parents who hold parties for underage people where alcohol is present, the alleged thinking being that they can control the behavior and keep the kids safe. These parents don’t think about their responsibilities if the situation turns out differently – much less the legal and financial consequences. The kids just want to have fun.

There are parents who let their kids use birth control, the alleged thinking being that it’s better safe than sorry, or some such excuse.

And what parent doesn’t let a kid have a phone these days? After all, it’s crucial to be able to stay in touch and a cell phone is the best way.

Add into this addicting social media that make porn so easy to create and share that it doesn’t seem like porn to unthinking people. Add to this the social media trends that encourage all kinds of wrong behavior; the “slap a teacher” challenge is just one example. Add to this social media and apps so rife with disinformation and manipulation that clear thinking is lost.

Wearing “mature” clothes, having a driver’s license, watching “mature” videos and having sex does not make a person an adult.

But there are teenagers who think they can “handle it,” and they can be very skilled at arguing. They think if they go ballistic, their parents will be scared of hurting their feelings or losing them.

They think if they exude unhappiness, the parents will feel sorry for them and let them have their way. There are teens who try the strategy of being sweet, hoping that parents will just be glad to keep them happy. Or they might sound reasonable so that it seems the parents are the unreasonable ones.

Neurologists, have studied teenage brains for years and have determined they are not fully developed. Adolescent brains are influenced by hormones, heredity, the environment in which they grow, lack of sleep and, yes, their exposure to the blue light of digital screens. Teens’ brains are not fully developed for making rational decisions. They often make decisions based on an emotional impulse, which is why many are ill-thought out and poor choices.

Professional counselor Colleen O’Grady of Houston specializes in helping parents have good and healthy relationships with their teenagers. In an article for empoweringparents.com, she recommends:

Have clear boundaries. Teens will try to push the parent to make a quick decision without taking time to think about it. But, it’s not necessary to give an immediate answer. Take a break and think. A decision can be changed.

Stay clear of the drama. “Teenage girls are hard-wired for drama,” O’Grady says. “When you react to her drama, you lose your power and your clarity. You can end up feeling bad about how you reacted and she gets her way.” Again, the counselor recommends taking a break and waiting until the teenager is calm before talking.

Get support. It’s helpful to have another trusted adult who can offer perspective.

Congratulate yourself for being a good parent. If you’re protecting your child, you’re doing your job.

Find ways to say yes. Loving parents want their children to be happy as well as protected. If a parent has to say no to protect the teen, is there also a way to say yes? O’Grady gives the following example to tell a teen: “Yes, it’s OK to go to the party as long as the parents will be there. Let me call them and make sure they’re going to be home, and you can go.” This way, the “no” becomes an opportunity for a “yes.” The decision becomes a matter of the teen’s cooperation.

Other suggestions

Following are more suggestions offered by experts:

Encourage learning an enjoyable hobby or skill.

Negotiate better sleep patterns and let your teens lie in at the weekends. They need this sleep.

Be patient. Teens are trying to understand their own decision-making so getting frustrated will only encourage more conflict.

Remember what it was like when you were a teen and how you reacted to your own parents.

Read up on brain development. “The Primal Teen” by Barbara Strauch gives insight into often unpredictable behavior.

Be a little sympathetic. Hormonal explosions are exhausting for them too!

After the hardships of the pandemic and Hurricane Ida, teenagers – like people of any age – want to enjoy this beautiful October weather. They are eager for homecoming dances, parties and other opportunities to socialize. Tempted to break rules? The rules may not even enter their heads. They just want to have fun.

Teenagers are not grownups yet. They still need for the adults in their lives to protect them, help them and guide them so they can grow into adulthood. It is not easy, but it’s a parent’s job.

– Lil Mirando, The Daily Star

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