When you and your spouse become parents and welcome a baby into your lives, focus automatically shifts from your partner to your little one. But as he or she grows older and moves into the stage of adolescence, you find it hard to accept and deal with the reality that your child is now pulling away from you in search of that one desired goal; independence.
Although this is not representative of all teens, the search for self-identity and independence usually occurs through social separation and opposition to your authority over matters of their freedom, roles and responsibility.
While your teenager becomes more drawn to the company of friends and eager to experience life away from home, you in turn, become more watchful over him or her for fear of the harmful behaviour and social dangers your child might be exposed to.
To add more pressure to this frustrating period, arguments between you and your spouse start to occur over parental contributions, such as who supervises what, or appropriate ways to discipline your teenager.
When frequent conflicts like these arise, the home becomes an unhappy one, and the teenager, the husband and the wife all feel misunderstood.
Making it work
If you are looking for a road map to find your way through these difficult years, here are some tips that may help:
Dealing with teenage angst
- Help your teenager through this growth process and try not to suppress change. Remember that you too were a teenager once, so try to understand what your child is going through.
- Encourage your child to think for himself and help him through the ‘hows & whys’ in life. However, the answers he finds must be his own, and not overly influenced by you.
- Confer more responsibilities to your child that is suitable for his age and ability.
- Respect your teen’s privacy. Let your teen know that you trust him or her. But, if the trust is broken, let your teen know that he or she has less freedom until this trust is rebuilt.
- Pick your battles. Before objecting to your teen’s need for extreme changes in hairstyle or fashion sense, think twice. Your teenager may want to shock you with drastic changes but it is better to let him do something temporary and harmless; and leave the objections to more worrying matters like tobacco, alcohol, and drugs.
Keeping the love alive
- Don’t let your teenager take centre stage in your life, but give equal attention to both your spouse and your child. Many marriages have fallen apart because of this as couples fail to keep a separate boundary from their children in their relationships. They also start taking their spouse for granted when they fail to communicate and spend alone time together.
- Make all parenting decisions together so that there is no chance for your teenager to exploit a disagreement over decisions concerning him or her.
- When conflicts involving gender experiences arise, such as for example, “You’ve never been through that stage because you’re not a girl!”, always remember that two parental views are better than one when it comes to understanding the situation and how to deal with it.
- As for whose disciplinary method is right, there is no right or wrong method. Both of you come from different backgrounds and may have different ideas on discipline. The key in situations like this is to come to an agreement with each other that the misbehaviour must be punished – and then agree on a certain method of punishment that satisfies both your values.
- Don’t blame your marital conflicts on your adolescent. Trouble in a marriage is usually attributed to a lack of intimacy between husband and wife at this point in life. You and your spouse may also be going through individual pressures in mid-life. What you can do is work on your marital relationship and communicate with each other instead of projecting the blame onto your teenager.
There may only be a few years left before your children go off to college and leave the nest. Then there will be just the two of you. So start now and continue to keep the intimacy alive between you and your spouse.