The teen years are a time of huge transitions. Not quite adults yet, but definitely not kids anymore, teens are tasked with getting to know themselves and also learning how to have a new kind of relationship with the people they love.
Being a teenager is an exciting time of growth, but it’s also excruciating.
Suddenly your parents feel like an aggravation rather than a safe haven, friendships and romantic relationships start feeling more complicated, and the pressure from school starts to mount.
Trying to figure this out by yourself can leave you feeling stressed, and scared to make any decisions lest you make a mistake. With so much riding on you, something has got to give, and so far it’s been your sanity.
Whereas you used to be able to go to your parents for help and support, some things are just too weird to talk to them about. Other times you may come to them wanting support and end up getting irritated or worse yet, starting an argument. So you keep your stress to yourself or talk to your friends about it. It’s nice to have someone to to commiserate with, but since they’re going through the same thing you are, it doesn’t always help.
Maybe it looks something like this: you’ve always been really conscientious about making the “right” decisions. You want to make yourself proud, and that means not getting into drugs or alcohol, and certainly not being stupid about sex and dating. But lately you’ve been feeling so overwrought with school stuff and trying to make everyone around you happy, that you feel like you want to let loose.
And not only that, you don’t want to waste these teen years being too responsible, because goodness knows once you have a job and a family you’ll get enough of that.
So when you got invited to that party and you know there’s going to be alcohol there, for the first time you feel tempted to throw caution to the wind and show up. You’re the only one in your friend group who is as responsible as you are anyway, so surely having one or two drinks wouldn’t be the end of the world.
Normally you would talk to your parents about pros and cons but you know that they wouldn’t approve and you don’t want them making your decisions for you forever. The issue is that then the only voices you’re listening to are your friends, and they are hardly reliable for sound advice. You want to be able to be a teenager and experience being reckless and irresponsible, but you also want to stay safe, and protect your future.
Eventually you end up either feeling resentful that you’ve wasted your teen years being responsible and adult (everyone always said you were really mature for your age) or you end up making more and more reckless decisions that feel like they’re spiraling out of your control.
The truth is that experimentation is a normal part of being a teenager.
That means starting to make more of your own decisions and having a broader range of experiences so that you can practice boundary setting and self advocacy. When you go away to college, you aren’t going to have your parents as a buffer anymore, so it’s going to be important that you have a better understanding of your limits.
It’s okay to not know exactly who you are and exactly what your limits are. That’s what this time is for. It’s just important to make sure that while you experiment, you can do it safely.
Being a teenager is a stressful experience of growth and change. It can be helpful to know a little more about what is going on in your brain and the developmental tasks of this age so that you can feel free to grow and change, but still keep yourself safe and protect your future. When we keep in mind the purpose of these years, it can be easier to make decisions that satisfy our need for adventure while not losing sight of the things that are going to matter moving forward.
Keep reading to learn 2 things about the teen years that can help you live these years to the fullest.
TOO MUCH STRESS AND RESPONSIBILITY
Left to navigate the teens years on your own, it’s hard to drown out the noise of everyone else’s opinions so that you can figure out what matters to you. Even if you are somehow able to identify what matters to you and what doesn’t, then you have the problem of balancing it all and learning how to communicate with people without everything becoming an argument or a power struggle. Living like this is unnecessarily stressful and turbulent.
SAFE EXPERIMENTATION AND LEARNING TO BE YOURSELF
Although there is nothing that is going to make the teen years feel easy, if you learn more about what is supposed to be happening during these years, you will be better able to get to know yourself and feel comfortable with the decisions you’re making. When we choose to engage in the teen years in a full way and immerse ourselves in the developmental purpose of this time, we can get through it with more confidence and excitement about the future. You can learn about what is making the teen years so hard so that you can safely explore who you are and who you want to be moving forward.
2 THINGS YOU DIDN’T KNOW ABOUT THE TEEN YEARS SO YOU CAN EXPERIMENT AND GROW, AND STILL BE SAFE
The teen years may have you feeling stressed, lost and frustrated. The key to making the most of this time and getting everything you want out of it, is learning more about what’s happening in your brain, and what the point of these years is in the first place. It may surprise you how much more clear things become with just a bit more information about why things feel the way they do. Take a look at these 2 things you didn’t know about the teen years so that you can learn who you are and what matters to you, and stretch your limits safely.
Take a look at these 2 things you didn’t know about the teen years so that you can learn who you are and what matters to you, and stretch your limits safely.
1) Suddenly you feel an itch to be reckless
One of the hardest things about being a teenager is suddenly feeling like everything is boring and all you want to do is everything you know you shouldn’t do. It’s the weirdest thing the way it comes on. One day you feel content to focus on getting good grades and doing the responsible thing, and the next day it just doesn’t feel satisfying anymore. You just want to stretch your limits, experience more of life, and learn more about who you are and how you respond in different situations. Suddenly the fact that your parents would hate it, makes it seem like a much better idea.
It makes complete sense that you’re feeling this way when you know more about what is happening in your brain and why.
Teens are naturally reckless and adventure seeking
This serves a purpose that makes a lot of sense when you think about it for a moment. When kids are really little, they want to live with their parents forever. The idea of ever moving out and starting on their own feels terrifying, and well it should! Small children are dependent on their parents for everything, but as we get older, we become more and more capable of taking care of ourselves. Teens are on the precipice of moving out, finishing school, developing intimate relationships, and all in all making a life for themselves independently. As you can imagine, this takes quite a bit of courage and daring. How can you get to a place of independence, if you stay risk averse? Becoming an adult is full of risks and challenges, and it means your whole life is going to change.
You feel adventurous now because you need to embark on the huge adventure of creating a life for yourself.
Now that you know that this is a natural part of the teen experience (and why) it can be used to your advantage. If you try to quash this instinct it will end up spilling out of you later or actually stunting your growth and development.
When I work with teens I make sure to respect this instinct and urge that teens have, while engaging with the teen to ensure that they explore their limits and identify safe ways to experiment and adventure.
This instinct is a wonderful part of being a teen, and when we work with it as opposed to against it, it can help us create wonderful memories that we can look back on as adults (because we made it to adulthood safely).
2) Why are your parents suddenly so annoying?!
One of the first things I think of when I consider the difficulties of being a teenager is the way your relationship with your parents is changing. This is hard for so many reasons. Your parents used to be the best place to go when you needed to sooth disappointment or heartache. One day going to your parents for support or just hanging out with them the way you used to doesn’t feel satisfying anymore. In fact, most interactions you have with your parents lately have been ending in arguments and frustration. You at once lose access to the calm and safety they used to afford you, and gain these irritating overlords who seem hellbent on making things more frustrating than they need to be.
It makes sense that your relationship with your parents is becoming more challenging when you consider the challenge of developing an identity that feels one hundred percent your own.
Your developmental task is to figure out who you are.
In broad terms, the task of the teenager is to learn who they are separate from their parents. Whereas a small child might ask their parents what is best and follow that lead, an adult may ask the opinion of others, but ultimately makes his own decision. In order to create this boundary, a teen needs to take on the task of mentally separating himself from his parents so that he can gain a clearer understanding of who he is as an individual.
Cue arguments about how your parents need to stop telling you what to do. This explains a bit of why you have a strong inclination to do the exact opposite of what your parents might want you to do.
Therapy is a great place to spend some time really exploring your own mind and your own beliefs, apart from the influence of your parents.
The more exploration you do in therapy, the less impulsive you will be, and the more able you will be to interact civilly with your parents.
The idea is to give you opportunities to learn more about who you are without having to act it out as much, and giving you skills to develop this new relationship with your parents.
Learning more about the tasks of being a teenager can help you to have a full and exciting teenage experience. You can absolutely get to know yourself as an individual through experimentation, and maintain the progress you’ve made towards the goals you’ve set out for yourself.
Therapy can give you a safe space to explore your values, your limits, and ways to re-create relationships as an adult.
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