Are you confused and overwhelmed by your teen right now?
Maybe things were hard before 2020, but now they seem impossible with the two (or three, or four) of you sharing the same walls 24/7 and playing in your own version of Survivor. Yet in your version of Survivor, instead of competing for $10,000, you are competing for sanity, the remote, and for your daughter to stop “shopping” your closet and leaving her unwanted items (basically everything) all over the floor… because like you said, “NO ONE IS GOING TO THE MALL DURING COVID-19”.
Ah yes, now, we are together, forever, with the insistent, “But, Mom!” playing like a mixtape all day.
None of us could have seen 2020’s changes coming, although I’m sure you were noticing the changes in your teen over the last year and doing the best you could to survive by trying to understand and adapt to their needs. In this article, I will be walking through the three stages of teen development (of course with a little humor) so you feel more equipped to navigate the ever-changing waters of the stage your teen is currently in and batten down the hatches for what’s to come next.
Stage One: Tweens (9-12yrs)
It can feel like you were thrown into parenting a teenager without warning and you’re left wondering, “What did I miss?” You wake up one day with a nine-year-old going on 19! Your coveted afternoon dates to the park are replaced with going to Jessica’s house. “What does Jessica have that I don’t?” Even though we knew this day was coming, you are thinking — this is WAY TOO SOON!
Your tween is in this stage if:
– They do not want to hold your hand anymore
– Hugs seem toxic to them
– Friends are everything to them
– Clothes are their love language
– Anger and tears are flowing more rapidly by the minute
Behind the scenes, your tween is not only physically changing but emotionally going through rapid changes as well. During this stage, changes in how tweens think, reason, and understand can be even more dramatic than the physical changes you can see. Tweens strengthen their reasoning skills, these are the skills used to think about multiple options and think through “What if…?” possibilities for a given situation) during this time, amongst other changes.
Physical changes they are experiencing strongly influence their identity and self-esteem – in both positive and negative ways. Your tween may be looking to their friends to confirm their self-confidence and feel “normal.”
How you can help: The sudden shift from the world revolving around family to revolving around friends is one of the most significant normal changes. Yet it can be difficult to watch your tween become completely infatuated with friends and school activities. Provide “low-risk” opportunities by inviting their friends to your house to hang out, letting them walk to a park close by to play basketball together, or letting your tween stay home alone while you run over to the neighborhood convenience store or are at a neighbor’s house. This builds their self-esteem and a foundation of trust in your relationship as they move into the next stage.
Stage Two: Teens (13-17yrs)
This process of extreme growth and change in teens starts around nine years old and goes all the way through 21 – with the biggest changes happening in this stage – between the ages of 13 and 17.
All of these big changes make it difficult for you and your teen to have a positive relationship. Think about what it feels to go through menopause (or what you have heard); now picture that x100 and all of your friends and everyone you are around at work is going through the same thing!
How would you feel when you finally get home for the day?
Our teens are experiencing those same extreme changes in hormones, emotions, and thought processes every day at school, sports, clubs … with other teens experiencing the same extremes.
Your teen is in this stage if:
– They seem to be arguing just for the sake of arguing
– Jumping to conclusions is the new norm
– The universe revolves around them
– You are always at fault – and you weren’t even there!
– Drama to the nth degree!
The biggest thing to remember when you are frustrated with how your son or daughter is behaving is that these behaviors are a completely normal and healthy part of their development (although they may trigger your need for a glass of wine at the end of the day).
Friends are an even bigger part of their lives at this stage. But while friends have a big influence on our teen’s day-to-day identity choices (like clothing or music), research has shown that having family members that teens feel connected to is even more important during the teen years than at any other time. A family that a teen feels connected to has a powerful effect on that teen’s basic values and decisions.
How you can help: Don’t disconnect with your teen during these years. This is a critical time to make sure you stay connected! Keep talking … eat family dinners together … plan outings for just you and your teen, for example, an offer of shopping is hard for many teens to resist … or binge-watch a show together that they get to pick.
Stage Three: Young Adults (18-21yrs)
Finally, your teen is starting to acknowledge you again, and you can see they are becoming good human beings (that was a worry for a few years)!
Your young adult is in this stage if:
– Physical growth has leveled off
– Your point of view is now being considered (hallelujah!)
– Social issues are important
– Independence is a priority
At this stage you are moving from their manager to their advisor, you feel relieved they are becoming successful young adults and sad at the same time that they are leaving the nest. You may be introduced to a more significant romantic partner in this stage (I know, scary!) and need to navigate your feelings towards that person — positive and negative. They are becoming more and more independent, unfortunately not yet fully independent of your wallet.
Here’s how you can help: Be sure to remind your young adult of the important role they still play in your family and offer new ways they can be included and continue to contribute. As a parent, it may be difficult to relinquish control and become the person they come to for a consultation. This final stage is a growth stage for both you and your young adult. Your relationship is evolving and you are creating strong ties that will last well into adulthood.