Colby looked in the mirror one last time before proceeding downstairs. She frowned, hating the way her hair looked this morning. No matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t get it to lay right. Turning slightly to the left to look at her profile, she gasped. She had a huge crater on the side of her face. When did that happen? She ran into her mom’s bathroom to look for cover-up. Caking on a sufficient amount of the ointment to hide her zit, she shuffled downstairs. “Good morning,” mom said casually as Colby entered the kitchen. Colby didn’t answer. “Are you going to take your lunch to school, or are you eating in the cafeteria?” Again there was no answer. “Well, if you decide to make a lunch there are some new sandwich meats in the fridge.”
“I can’t believe you,” Colby whined. “You aren’t even nice to me in the morning anymore. It’s, ‘Colby do this and Colby do that,’ from the minute I get up. Geez!” She slammed her backpack down on the counter and began stuffing math papers into the side pocket. “I hate my life,” she mumbled. Unsure of what to say, mom just sat quietly with a strained smile on her face. She had been through these conversations before and knew that trying to engage at this point would only result in yelling and tears. She looked at her watch. Colby better hurry if she was going to make the bus.
The airy and etheric years of the teen are tumultuous. Emotions blow in and out on a whim. Hormones are surging. Radical hairstyles, extreme clothing, and borderline friendships typify our child’s need to be seen and heard. Self-expression is the “work” of this stage and is not only normal, but necessary. It is understandable that teens on the precipice of adulthood will make some mistakes and miscalculations when it comes to expressing their needs and wants. Moving from childish verbalizations to adult articulation is a process that takes time. It isn’t something that happens overnight. Yet, the teen who feels so grown up inside, lunges ahead anyway. As in previous stages, parents who have a strategy prepared ahead of time are much better equipped to deal with this erratic and unpredictable child. Flexibility, tolerance and humor help. Teens whose parents embrace their attempts at self-discovery, who empathize and support them, are much less likely to suffer depression, abuse substances or resort to violence. Parenting at every step is an adventure, but during the teenage years it is a journey of epic proportions.