The mother sitting in front of me was in tears. She looked thoroughly defeated, but more than that, she was worried. Her husband, sitting next to her, sighed deeply and shook his head in anger. “We’ve been through this a million times. It’s like hitting your head against granite… and I’m just about done.”
Sitting across from them was their 16-year-old daughter Rachel. Her expression was one of contempt mixed with boredom. She sat slouched in an overstuffed office chair, arms folded across her chest, a thousand-mile stare directed out the window.
Before entering high school Rachel had been an easygoing youngster who seemed to bounce through each day as though she hadn’t a care in the world. Her parents described her as having been “a bright, happy, and outgoing” girl.
Sometime in the middle of her freshman year, however, they noticed a change in their daughter. Their easygoing daughter began to sulk when asked to do chores, and the little arguments around inconsequential topics became more frequent. Shortly after this, the school began to call letting the parents know that Rachel had skipped a class, or had been found leaving the high school campus with a group of other teens.
Around this same time, Rachel’s mood became even more irritable. She withdrew frequently, spending hours behind a closed bedroom door. Getting her to talk at the dinner table had never been an issue in the past. Now the parents felt lucky if their daughter spoke up at all.
As the semester wore on, it became clear that what their daughter wanted most was to be left alone – unless she needed to be driven somewhere, in which case the agreeable and sweet side of Rachel from times gone by suddenly reappeared.
The parents responded to these changes by telling their daughter how disappointed they were in her choices. When this did not have the desired impact they would shift to stern reprimands and punishment. Confrontation and tense exchanges started to punctuate each week.
Rachel’s behavior always showed brief improvement after one of these heated conflicts, but over time she learned to simply agree with whatever her parents said, and then immediately ignored all of their warnings.
Her mother and father unwittingly developed a routine. Each evening before going to bed the conversation would turn to the topic of Rachel’s most recent act of defiance. Back and forth they tossed ideas, expressed their worry, spoke of their anger, and wondered what had gone so wrong. The home that two years before had been filled with laughter and a sense of intimacy was now an emotional war zone.
Anger and conflict had replaced the warmth and sense of oneness they had previously enjoyed. Rachel’s parents were confused. How could such a sweet girl transform into one who was so resentful and rebellious? How could their family life so quickly shift from being a haven of support to a crucible of conflict?
The ‘last straw’ occurred when the parents returned home early from a ‘date night’ and found that Rachel had invited a boy into the house for a date night of her own. Feeling desperate, the parents decided to call a therapist.
How To Save Your Teen (And Yourself) From The Pain Of Adolescence
The story of Rachel is a familiar one:
A rebellious adolescent whose misbehavior creates years of emotional turmoil within a family. There are, however, ways of making this outcome less likely. Of putting the odds for happy adolescence in your favor.
Preparation is the key. From the time a child is a toddler, parents need to focus on preparing their child to meet the challenges of adolescence. To know how to prepare your child for adolescence you need to recognize what challenges your teen will face. Only by knowing what lies ahead can you also know how to prepare your child.