Teens: Opening The Door to a Better Relationship
By Eileene Welker
you are a parent of a teen, do these statements sound familiar?
He won't do anything around the house. She's always in her room.
He is always on the phone. She can spend an hour on her hair; why
can't she spend five minutes to empty the dishwasher? I can't stand
the way teens dress. I'm worried that they may try drugs or become
the fact that most parent-teen relationships are warm and caring,
issues of independence and increasing conflict emerge during the
teen years. These two connected issues may cause you concern as
you try to figure out how to handle them.
recent years, psychologists have revised their idea of healthy parent-teen
relationships. They have found that most teens have warm, close
relationships with their parents. They care about their parents'
opinion of them and hold their parents' opinions in high regard.
Many teens who do not have good rapport with their parents have
had difficulties with them for years. If your relationship with
your child has always been strained, there are ways to relate more
of children in their early teens can expect an increase in the number
of arguments with their children. At this time your teen is trying
to establish him or herself as an independent person in the household.
Once you and your family begin to acknowledge this change, the number
of arguments between parents and teens usually declines.
fear loss of control over the adolescent and fear for the adolescent's
safety because of his/her increased independence. Parents are irritated
and annoyed with the adolescent's behavior. Adolescents face stress
when pushing for more freedom than parents are willing to grant.
When they fail to adhere to parental advice they may engage in deviant
behavior. Understanding teens' developmental stages and their traits
as teens can help parents support their teens in developing into
independent, responsible adults.
Stages of Teens
Physical Changes. Adolescents experience rapid rates
of growth and maturation of the reproductive organs and glands.
Together, these physical changes accomplish the biological task
of transforming a child into an adult. Rapid change combined with
wide variation among individuals tend to make adolescents extremely
sensitive to their appearance. At no other time in life are feelings
about the self (self-esteem) so closely tied to feelings about the
body (body image).
physical changes also affect their social relations and emotions.
That is why a pimple or being ahead or behind a classmate in physical
growth can be so stressful to the teens' emotions.
Changes. Teens develop their abstract thinking capacities. Before
age 11 or 12 children think in terms of concrete objects and groups
of objects. By age 16 most adolescents have gone from the simple
way of thinking to complex forms of reasoning. They learn to approach
a problem systematically. Moral issues become more complex because
they understand that two sound rules or principles might conflict.
For example: They will understand that in certain situations the
values of friendship and honesty conflict. They will struggle with
a question about whether someone should report a friend for breaking
also come to realize that what exists is only one of many possibilities.
This is important in facing many choices as they move into adulthood
and choose career directions, educational paths and mates. Thus,
teens need time alone to think about the many possibilities.
Changes. Because of their physical and mental growth, adolescents
are no longer treated like children. The expectations adults and
peers have of them change and their behavior changes. Thus the social
world in which they live changes in important ways.
of the most obvious social changes is the beginning of serious interest
in and interactions with teens of the opposite sex. They have to
learn to handle the emotions and behavior that go along with these
relationships. They also experience a change in how adults treat
them and talk to them. It is often in a more adult manner. They
are also seeking more independence. They are given more privileges
that were reserved for adults like driving and working. However,
they may feel they should have even more privileges and these may
become areas of conflict for parents and teens. Parents may feel
frustrated with the perception that teens want more freedom but
not the responsibility that comes with it.
changes lead to typical traits of teenagers. Some of these are:
with being popular. The teen is trying to find out how worthwhile
he or she is in the eyes of peers. Having friends means that he
has been accepted. Teens spend more time with peers because they
have similar tastes in music, dress, activities, dreams, and goals.
the way things are. Teens will challenge the rules and reason of
parents, teachers, and the world. This is part of their intellectual
growth and trying out new ideas and possibilities.
concern about how they look. They feel that everyone is looking
at them. They are concerned with their physical and hormonal changes.
Are they fitting in with their classmates? They now can imagine
what other people may be thinking so teens feel as if they are living
in a display store window and everyone is watching them.
friends you may not approve of. They are exploring new relationships
and ideas these friends may have.
by peers. Teens will look to their peers for norms in dress, drugs,
alcohol, and sexual behaviors. However, research shows that teens
are strongly influenced by their parents in moral issues.
is very important. Having friends during early adolescent years
is valuable as children are trying to develop acceptable social
skills. They are relating to other teens in different ways than
when they were younger.
privacy. Teens need time to think as their intellectual capacities
increase and they are faced with new ideas and challenges. The changes
they are undergoing physically often lead them to a need for privacy.
With the rapid changes going on in physical, social, and intellectual
growth, they may be concerned with how they are doing. Their hormonal
changes are a great factor.
all this going on, is it any wonder that they forget to take out
the trash? It may be important to us but it is certainly low on
their priority list.
adolescence teens experience rapid physical, social, emotional,
and intellectual development. Problems may arise because parents
do not change their parenting style. Treating a teen as a young
child - not taking into account his/her intellectual growth and
ability to think through a situation in a way that was not previously
possible can belittle the teen and cause conflict. He or she is
also seeking more independence. Instead of mandating rules, including
the teen in discussion of some rules can help them in learning to
work through problems and arrive at solutions that may involve compromise.
Remembering all the changes teens are going through and following
these steps can improve the parent-teen relationship.
Adolescents, Stephen F. Hamilton, Dept. of Human Development and
Family Studies, Cornell University, Cornell Cooperative Extension.
- Parenting into the Teen Years, Issue 4, Illinois Cooperative Extension
parenting StyleCProgram, James Van Horn, Ph.D., CFLE, Professor
of Rural Sociology, Penn State University.
Management Cards, Ohio State University Extension.
Welker is an Extension Agent at Family & Consumer Sciences,
Tuscarawas County. Issued
in furtherance of Cooperative Extension work, Acts of May 8 and
June 30, 1914, in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture,
Keith L. Smith, Director, Ohio State University Extension.
can avoid problems like teenage alcohol abuse within their
homes if they develop healthy relationships with their teenagers.