Miss Debrett on... Troublesome Teens
The teenage years may transform your
delightful child into an alien being.
Agonisingly self-conscious, sullen,
lacking all social graces, angry,
these are the teenage traits we
have all come to dread.
Enslaved by riot of hormones,
stressed by exams, sexually
self-conscious, desperate to
break free from over-protective
parents - being a teenager isn't easy.
When you're the 'victim' (i.e. parent) of a typical teen, you'll find it hard to focus on your own embarrassing memories of teen trauma, but it's very important that you do just that. It will help you deal with all the garbage that your teen is lobbing at you.
Don't be fooled by your teen - they may be doing their utmost to project themselves as ultra-cool rebels without a cause, but they're still young kids. They need lots of positive feedback, compliments and affection.
Give them a bit of space - they'll probably spend hours microscopically examining their acne in the bathroom mirror, or trying on hundreds of different outfits, or experimenting with hair gel and make-up. Just live with it. Banging on the bathroom door, demanding 'what are you up to in there?' will enrage them. Let them have their privacy.
Teens want to be different, and will enjoy shocking you. Piercings, tattoos, weird and wonderful hair colours, bizarre clothes - this is all ammunition in the 'shock the parent' game. Don't rise to the bait until things get really serious.
Don't be scornful of teen culture. Nothing is more provocative than a parent whose knee-jerk response to music, clothes, films, games and all the other paraphernalia of teenage existence is contemptuous dismissal. It's your teenager's world, and you don't have to embrace it (that would come across as embarrassingly 'cool'), but at least respect it.
Accept that normal teenagers are just differently mannered and swallow your distaste. Hail their occasional appearance during daytime hours with good grace, welcome every grunt as if it were the Sermon on the Mount and use humour to chip away at the seemingly unscalable wall between you and them.
Above all, listen to what they're trying to tell you. It's all too easy to fall into the outraged parent mode, hectoring and haranguing, convinced of your superior wisdom, intent on pointing out the errors they are making. But growing up is about making your own mistakes and learning from them - it's painful to watch a much-loved child go through this agonising initiation, but you can't do it for them.
Miss Debrett's Top Tips
- Don't be fooled by your teens. They want to appear ultra-cool, but they still need masses of affection and positive support.
- Give your teens some space and privacy. THey're experimenting with independence.
- Don't react to all the things that teenagers hold dear - clothes, music, tv programmes, games - with knee-jerk contempt.
- Listen to what your teens are telling you, and try not to harangue or lecture.