Dear Barb—Teen Angst

Dear Barb:

I am the mother of a thirteen-year-old daughter and an eight-year-old boy.  I am about halfway through my degree at AU and I work part time, so I am very busy trying to take care of everything.  My husband is great; he helps out with the kids and does most of the cooking.  We have always been fairly relaxed parents and our home has mostly been stress free, but recently things have changed.  My daughter went from being an easygoing loving child, to an angry teenager overnight.  She has a whole new group of friends and has even changed her appearance.  I knew the teenage years were coming and it would be a difficult time for us as parents, but this change seems to be very drastic.  Melissa always came straight home from school, but a few nights ago she strolled in after dinner with no explanation.  When I asked her where she was, she had a meltdown, screaming at me that it’s none of my business, and then she ran into her room banging the door behind her.  My husband and I were shocked, what happened to our sweet little girl? Even when I attempt to clean her room, she makes it clear that she does not want me going through her dresser drawers.  I have always cleaned out her drawers for her.  I’m wondering if she’s hiding something.  I have resorted to going through her room when she’s at school, but I didn’t find anything suspicious.  As a parent am I wrong in wanting to know where my daughter is and if she’s hiding anything? Please Help! Ashley.

Hi Ashley:

Welcome to the world of teenagers! You said you knew it was coming, well it’s here.  I don’t think your daughter is doing anything out of the ordinary for her age, as she is trying to push the boundaries.  It’s important that you adjust your reactions to her behaviour; otherwise you will be in constant conflict with her.  She does not want to be treated like a little girl anymore and is trying to establish some independence.  Most likely your daughter is not telling you where she’s going because she doesn’t want to hear your opinion or advice.  She wants to make her own decisions. This is a normal part of growing up.  Similarly, she wants some privacy, which is why she doesn’t want you going through her dresser.  Don’t be reactive, try to respect her decisions.  She will be more likely to ask for your advice if you are not handing it out freely.  If she has a “meltdown” calmly state that this is not acceptable behaviour and walk away.  If you don’t engage her, she will not have anyone to continue her rant with.  Choose a time when you are both in a good place and calmly discuss what expectations you have for her, as far as curfew, chores, her behaviour, then let it be.  If she doesn’t adhere to the rules, you and your husband have to clearly and strongly state what the consequences will be.  No doubt the teenage years are difficult, my best advice is to present strong, caring, parental role models and have faith that things will work out.  Hope this is helpful, thanks for your letter Ashley.