Push and pull

How to deal with your teen when times get tough

Teens are harsh critics. Acceptance is hard to gain, and everyone craves it. It makes you feel less alone and it makes you feel you belong somewhere.

However, while seeking acceptance, there are situations when things can get out of hand. Teens sometimes do drugs, drink alcohol or smoke to fit in. It can make a teen change — justified by giving into peer pressure to fit in. The demeanor worn around new “friends” becomes a shell.

I’ve been in that situation. But when my family and a few friends that I trusted told me I was changing and it concerned them, I took a step back. I realized that what was going on wasn’t right. I changed after that experience, but I was lucky to get out before it was too late.

It’s not something that happens to every teen, but it can happen. If there are varying degrees of emotional states (depression, aggression, etc.), parents should investigate what’s going on. If you do, don’t ask their friends. That way you won’t get any modified truths, plus you don’t want your teen to find out you were talking to their friends.

Teens try to be as independent as possible, and they don’t like it when their parents look into what they feel is private. Their privacy is important because it makes them feel like adults. They want to test the leash and figure out how far they’re allowed to go. If their emotional state is not affecting their school work/home life, let them figure it out on their own. Maybe give them a subtle nudge. The best way to help your teen is to let them know you are there for them if they need you. Knowing they have someone behind them — no matter what — helps a lot.

Teens are thick-skulled and stubborn. If they aren’t open to suggestion, try stepping away. Nothing pushes them in the wrong direction faster than a desire to prove their parents wrong. Teens sometimes understand what their parents are doing and may decide to counteract it. They feel like undoing all of the work parents have tried to do is the best way to “ruffle their feathers.” Try to keep a cool head. If you respond negatively, they will, too. You will fuel a heated situation and make it worse.

Shouting at your teen can cause resentment and more frustration when they refuse to listen. It can lead to regretful things being said by both of you. Then you’re distressed when they disappear for a few hours. They act in certain ways to make themselves feel in control of the situation. It can also be a defensive mechanism to protect their feelings. They leave because they regret what just happened, all the while blaming everyone else for it.

Teens are good at placing the blame on something or someone else; it makes them feel a little better about what they said or what they did. They’ll want to forget for a while and become easily susceptible to peer pressure. Every teen says “it’s never going to be me,” but you never know what situation will drive them in a bad direction. Teens are emotionally delicate. They won’t admit it, but sometimes the littlest things can hurt a lot. That is something to be mindful of.

Sitting a teen down and getting them to talk can work. They may spill everything to you and you can then find a way to help them. If that works, awesome! But a lot of the time it doesn’t. You may ask your teen about their day and they just say, “it was fine” instead of telling you the truth.

Sometimes they won’t tell you because they are too proud or because they are concerned about heaping more onto your plate as a parent. But often they just don’t know how to say things. Try to be empathetic and always listen before taking action. Successful tricks to get your teen to talk to you depend on the teen. There are books at the library about how to do this. I suggest maybe trying one of those. 

Auryon Torrey, 15, of Milford, will be a sophomore at Milford High School. She loves to write short stories, blurbs, and fan fiction for her friends and family.

Categories: Teens