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Today's Family Magazine

Parenting during adolescence

Apr 18, 2017 11:55AM ● By Today's Family
By Stacy Turner

I always knew this day would come.  I’ve heard the horror stories, but secretly hoped they were wrong.  Lately, however, my fears have become realized.  It feels like overnight, my fun-loving, caring child has morphed into a moody, sulking teen.  I supposed I should feel lucky that we had a short grace period -- it took her a few months of being 13 to unleash this new, self-absorbed persona.

Suddenly, my confident, logical child seems to care an awful lot about what others think about what she does, says and wears, when before she was confident in her own choices.  As someone who typically takes a lot of time to weigh options before making decisions, her ability to make quick decisions has always impressed me.

For example, each holiday since she was small, my mother-in-law, who lives several hours away, would select three or four dresses for each of my daughters.  At holidays, the girls hold an impromptu fashion show for Grandma, where they’d each try on their dresses and make their final selections.  Once the dresses are chosen and the tags removed, Grandma returns the non-winners.  More often than not, as early as she was able to articulate her thoughts, my now teen would pick her ideal dress from her selections and ask us to cut the tags off.  We had to convince her to try it on first; just to make sure it fit, but the one she initially chose would be the one she went with.  I almost envied her certainty, the bold confidence that made her ready to cut off the tags and own it, right from the start.  It’s been strange, these days, watching her question her decisions, wanting or needing others to weigh in with opinions on her choices.  It makes me pause and realize that even strong, confident kids aren’t immune to the growing pains of transforming into young adults.

In fact, according to Harvard neuropsychologists, adolescent brains process information differently than adult brains.  They’ve been able to show through neuroimaging, the brain differences that help explain why teens often exhibit impulsivity and poor judgment, and experience more social anxiety than adults.  I found this information to be extremely helpful.

But after a particularly busy week spent transporting that blossoming young adult to and from a variety of events and activities, I began to feel more like staff instead of a parent.  After paying countless fees and purchasing a variety of health, beauty, and wardrobe necessities, all while dealing with a new, eye-rolling, unappreciative attitude, the child I have always enjoyed spending time with had become not so fun to be around.  Which was a shock, since both my husband and I have most always enjoyed spending time with the kids we’re raising.  Several times, it was necessary for me to walk away in order to avoid saying or doing things I’d later regret.  My husband and I commiserated one night, trying to figure out the best way to deal with this sudden change.

Then, on an early-morning walk to the bus stop, he calmly told her that he felt their relationship had become more transactional instead of emotional.  He explained that lately, she simply completes the chores we require of her, and then hides away in her room.  She completes these tasks in exchange for an allowance and rides to and from her events, making it feel more like an employee and employer relationship, not a family.  After thinking that over a bit, she joked that it was emotional, since getting an allowance makes her happy.  As the bus pulled up, he extended his hand, telling her, “It’s been a pleasure working with you.” Somewhat shocked, our girl who is most often non-affectionate hugged her dad in front of God, the bus driver, and everyone.

While it’s true that being a parent isn’t always an easy job, it’s one of the best you can be blessed to have.