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By Thea Theresa English

How parents can understand and get through the teenage years

Out of nowhere your teen has become moody but yesterday he was happy and cracking jokes. He has also become secretive and cares more about what his friends think than what you are teaching him. These are just some of the characteristics of the adolescent stage of life. It is during this stage that puberty hits your child and he becomes interested in dating. In addition, his body undergoes changes and he is experiencing a wide range of emotions. Teens often desire more autonomy from their parents or other strong figures in their lives.

Identity crisis

Teens sometimes struggle with an identity crisis and for various reasons. They see the personalities of their parents and siblings, and wonder where they fit in the family structure. For other teens they try to figure out who they are in comparison with their friends. They desire a sense of belonging with their peers and this drives the temptation to give in to peer pressure.

Social circle expands

From infancy through early childhood, your child is heavily focused on you, your spouse and extended relatives but this changes during the adolescent years. While your teen still desires unconditional love and acceptance from you, he will start to become influenced by friends and other authority figures such as teachers and mentors. This is not a bad thing because your teen needs this in order to become more independent.

Body image issues

Teens go through new physical changes and this causes insecurity in teens at times. Some teens feel that they are putting on too much weight and they develop an eating disorder or grow depressed. Other teens might not like the sound of their voices or how they are not as tall as their siblings or friends. Parents can reassure their teens by telling them that their physical features are beautiful no matter how the teens may feel about those features. Parents also need to discuss the unrealistic images of beauty portrayed in the media and how it can interfere with the teen's sense of worth.

Misunderstandings and conflict with parents

During the toddler years your child begins to assert his independence but it returns aggressively during the adolescent years. During this time your teen starts to develop his own opinions and values and if they are in conflict with yours, arguments occur. You should still set boundaries and discipline your teen when needed but there should be a balance. Try to be understanding of what he is dealing with and offer to be there when he needs someone to listen to him.

How to survive the teen years as a parent

As hard as it might be, you want to give your kids adequate privacy while still monitoring what goes on their lives. Let your teens have the freedom to disagree with some of the values you are teaching them because they need to learn how to think for themselves. Honestly answer any questions your teen might have about sex, relationships and drugs. You will also need to choose which battles are important and which ones you can let go of.

Also be willing to forgive and ask for forgiveness from your teen when you make mistakes. This lets the teen know that you can admit to being wrong and that you desire to improve the relationship. Lastly, get to know your teen through bonding activities. If the two of you have common interests, plan outings based on those.

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