Tricky turbulent teens

Published November 18, 2023
Illustration by Sumbul
Illustration by Sumbul

Dear friends, I am sure many of you reading these lines must be teenagers. Teens are the transitional years during which you grow from a child to an adult. Starting from thirteen, this period ends at nineteen and, believe me, these are the most turbulent years of your lives, and for your parents as well! You seem to differ with them over nearly everything, trivial or important, arguments are common and you tend to be moody and irritable, or throw a tantrum at the slightest pretext.

You often have mood swings, much to the chagrin of your parents. One moment you would misbehave with mum and the other moment you will hug her and say, “I love you”.

The same attitude goes with your dad. You often sulk at his instructions, but then when you think rationally, you realise that he is right. Some of you may be quick to apologise, while others feel it would hurt their ego and instead of saying, “I am sorry”, try to make up with a positive attitude.

Have you ever thought about how your feelings about your parents changed during your teen years? You adored mum and couldn’t stay without her help and love, in the same way dad was your hero and you looked up to him in awe and admiration. Strangely, as teenagers, you start considering them the biggest hurdle to your privacy and a hindrance to your plans and ideas. What you forget is that teenagers are as adorable for their parents, as they were as toddlers or pre-adolescents. But your behavioural changes baffle or annoy them, which results in rifts, arguments, or distance from each other.

After a few years when you are responsible adults, or maybe raising your children, you will look back at this stage of life with mixed feelings. Some memories may bring regrets; others may bring a smile to your face. This will be the time when you will realise what a tough time you gave your parents and how touchy you were about trivial issues.

My friends, do not think that I am blaming you for your unpredictable behaviour; neither do I consider that your parents are victims. Being a grandmother, and long past the stage of life when I was raising my kids, I can understand your attitude better. It is only after growing old, I have realised that it is not easy to be a teenager, the years when you are considered neither a child nor a grownup. But believe me, being the parents of teenagers is also tough! I remember how cautious I used to be when interacting with my teenagers, always trying to be careful, because I knew I was treading on thin ice. But there were also times when I lost my patience and came down hard on my children.

Dear friends, please try to understand that to maintain discipline in the family, parents want you to follow the rules they have set for you and your siblings. There are times when you break these guidelines, but instead of confronting you, they may prefer to safeguard their sanity and just ignore. However, some breaches are too severe to be overlooked. And then the confrontations begin!

Today let’s try to understand the causes of this turbulent stage of life, the problems they create and how to deal with them. Because when problems are defined, we can always find ways to solve them.

It’s all a part of growing up

The fact that both you and your parents often overlook is that this is an interim period of life when you are witnessing physical and hormonal changes. Teen hormones have an impact not only on your body and mind, but also on your behavioural pattern. And when these hormones surge, you often behave in a weird manner, which baffles your parents.

Slowly and surely, you are leaving behind childhood and nature is preparing you to be responsible adults. The ‘growing up’ pains perplex you; you may not be comfortable with the changes in your body. You have mood swings, which you cannot understand and your behaviour patterns become unpredictable.

This period is a challenge for parents too. They have to be patient to give you some space and realise that there should be a certain amount of flexibility in the rules they have made over the years. In the same way, you should also not be rigid in your conduct. By usually accepting your parents’ restrictions, you will be able to convince them to relax their rules sometimes.

Clashes can be resolved

The most common problem during teenage is that you wish to venture out alone in the world. You want to make your own decisions. Rules/disciplinary matters feel like an interference to you and an intrusion into your privacy. What you forget is that your parents have been taking care of you and sheltering you from harm from the day you were born. They simply do not want to let go!

Mum is not ready to cut the apron strings, thinking you are not old enough yet. Dad, on the other hand, feels that you are still vulnerable and the time is not ripe for you to go out on your own in this big, bad world. They fear for your safety and well-being. As a result, the arguments begin.

You say, “For heaven’s sake, leave me alone! I am not a child anymore” and your parents quip back, “That’s what you think! We know better what is good or bad for you”.

Discussions are the key to solving differences. Both you and your parents should sit down with a cool head and sort out what is acceptable and what is not. For example, you may want to hang out late with friends, but your parents are not comfortable with this. You can fix a suitable time till which you can stay outdoors and also decide how many times a month you are allowed to go out with your peers.

When you create a bridge with them, most of the differences will settle to some extent. You can talk to them about your feelings, about peer pressure or other things which make you irritable and moody. Your parents in turn will open up to you and give you reasons for the restrictions that they think are important for your safety. Together, you can find a middle way that is acceptable to both.

Illustration by Sumbul
Illustration by Sumbul

Deal sensibly with siblings

As you move from childhood to adulthood, there comes a stage when you think you are a know-all and smarter than your younger siblings. Often you tend to be rude and brush aside their opinion. On the other hand, you may be disrespectful to older siblings and refuse to listen to them. This attitude creates tension for your parents, as they have to strike a fair balance between their kids.

When you are in a cordial mood, discuss with your family how to solve the issues you have with your siblings. You must learn to be friendly and helpful to them, because they are the ones who care for you the most. Your siblings should also know how to keep the atmosphere calm.

Draw a practical line on how much time you want to spend with your siblings without getting on each other’s nerves. Maintain a proper and comfortable balance, without becoming distant from them. By talking to your parents politely, you can convince them that although you love your family dearly, you still need some privacy, me-time or give attention to your studies in solitude. They should not nag you all the time to come out of your room and give company to your siblings.

Beware of your mood swings

As I told you at the beginning of this piece, hormonal surges are a natural part of growing up. Initially, parents feel hurt and are at their wit’s end on what has got into their sweet, caring child. Instead of being depressed, they should respect your feelings and be patient when you are having mood swings or downright tantrums. As for your part, when you start feeling angry or uncomfortable, move to the privacy of your room or go out in the open air. Exercise or brisk walking also helps to vent out negative emotions. As the hormonal surges settle down, sanity prevails. You realise that you were losing your temper on an insignificant issue.

In the same way when you feel moody or depressed, instead of picking up an argument, or worse still quarrelling with whoever comes in your way, drink a glass of water and take deep breaths. Then settle down in a corner with a book, your video game, or watch something on television. Allow the phase to pass before you interact with your family.

Search for a cushion

Here I am not talking about the cushions that mum keeps on sofa sets or your beds to make them comfortable or beautify them. The cushion I am talking about is a trustworthy person, who can act as a mediator and diffuse the tension between you and your parents/siblings. This cushion could be a grandparent, an uncle/aunt, or a sibling who is much older than you. These are the reliable family members, whom you can turn to, to help sort out the differences in opinions.

As both you and your parents have deep bonds of love and trust with these people, you will surely listen to their expert advice on how to sort out a troublesome situation. And even if you do not agree with a solution, do not be stubborn. Instead, rely on the wisdom of these cushions.

Communicate with your parents

Last, but surely not the least, you must improve your communication with your parents. When you were younger, you were always full of stories when you came back from school or from playing outdoors. But generally, as children enter their teens, they tend to withdraw into a cocoon and have nothing but monosyllables while conversing with their family. This makes your parents lonely, creates a distance and a failure to see each other’s point of view.

Gauge yourself honestly. When did you last have a heart-to-heart talk with your parents and siblings? When you create a communication bridge with them, most of the differences will settle to some extent. You can talk to them about your feelings, about things which make you irritable and moody. Your parents in turn will open up to you and give you reasons for the restrictions that they think are important for your safety, or why they want to make decisions for you. Together you can find a middle way to issues, which is acceptable to both.

The beauty of life is in making compromises when and where required. They can be compared to grease which helps in the smooth running of a machine. Timely conciliations among families, friends and acquaintances will create pleasant memories. Enjoy your teenage to the fullest, but do not make these years a nightmare for your parents. By a ‘give and take’ attitude, you can emerge from these turbulent years as strong, patient and compassionate young adults.

I would like to end with this beautiful quote from Gail Carson Levine, “When you become a teenager, you step onto a bridge. You may already be on it. The opposite shore is adulthood. Childhood lies behind. The bridge is made of wood. As you cross, it burns behind you.”

Wishing you all a happy teenage!

Published in Dawn, Young World, November 18th, 2023

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