This post: The REAL Reason Your Teen is Sometimes a Bear to Deal With
When my kids were teens, I swear, their moodiness almost did me in. It sometimes felt like their goal in life was to make everyone around them (mostly me) miserable right alongside them. If they were in a crummy mood, well… damn it, they were going to make darn sure everyone else was in a crummy mood, too.
Until that is, I went to my doctor for my annual physical and vented to her about why I was so exhausted, why I couldn’t find the bandwidth to get to the gym and exercise, why I wasn’t taking the time I should to care for myself and why I was so freaking stressed out.
She sat on her small round stool and patiently listened to me complain for 15 minutes. Realizing I was taking up too much of her time, I apologized. “I’m sorry… it feels so good to talk about this. I feel like my family doesn’t understand the mental and physical load I’m carrying and I just wish my kids weren’t so difficult… little do they know, I really am on their side.”
She smiled, told me she understood and as a mom who’d been through the teen years with her own kids she said, “Try not to be quite so hard on your kids… there’s a reason they’re such a bear to deal with, at times.”
That’s when she went on to share her words of wisdom as a doctor and as a mom. Not only were her words truly enlightening, I found comfort in knowing it wasn’t “me” my kids were fighting, but their own “growing pains” battle.
The REAL Reason Your Teen is Sometimes a Bear to Deal With
Sure, there might be times our kids give us a hard time just because they can, but quite often there’s a solid (and scientific) reason why our kids act the way that they do.
The irritability, frustration, sudden outbursts, and “out of nowhere” sadness are often directly linked to the hormones that are helping your teen transition into an adult – they’re essentially running a muck inside them. They’re also the reason why your teen feels things in a much bigger way. What might seem like “no big deal” to you can feel like a huge deal to your teen.
Their raging hormones aren’t very pretty, at times. In fact, you might find yourself saying. “Seriously? When is this EVER going to end?’ But… it DOES end eventually. Remember, this is just as hard on your teen as it is on you. Try to be patient and give them time to grow up a bit. Those hormones will settle.
BIG Time Body and Brain Changes
Not only are they going through huge hormonal changes, but their bodies and brains are undergoing massive changes, too. According to my kids’ pediatrician, physical changes start in the extremities and work their way in. Hence, the reason your son’s feet and hands might look too big for his body. They’re getting taller, your daughter is looking more like a young woman, and you’ll for sure notice your son’s voice is getting deeper, not to mention he suddenly has a 5 o’clock shadow. All this rapid-speed change can be exhausting and confusing for teens!
Add on the fact that your teen’s brain is going through a major overhaul and it’s no wonder your teen gets downright cranky, at times. Their underdeveloped prefrontal lobe (which doesn’t fully mature until they’re in their 20s), which helps manage their self-control, judgment, and decision-making can also be blamed for their moodiness.
Social Pressure & Stress
Elementary school seemed so easy and carefree. Enter the middle and high school years and suddenly your teen is faced with peer pressure, new friends coming onto the scene, old friends dissing them for (what seems like) no reason, friend drama (SO much drama!), and a world of comparison that can suck the life right out of them.
Things like being left off an invite list, feeling insecure because the guy or girl they’re crushing on has no interest in even getting to know them, or the pressure to do drugs, have sex or cheat in school can be enough to wear your teen down to their core. Oh, and don’t forget the “adultish” responsibilities you’re laying on their shoulders. And, who are they going to take all that frustration, insecurity, worry, and anger out on? YOU!
The Fight for Independence
There was a time when you knew where your child was, who they were with, and what they doing every moment of the day. Now, you’re tracking them totally confused because they’re clear across town and you don’t know why.
The constant tug for more freedom – typically more freedom than we’re ready to give – sets the tone for more than a few heated conversations or full-blown arguments. “But Mooom, I’m 16 now! Why can’t I go to the concert downtown with my friends? You’re so controlling! The other parents don’t have a problem with it!”
Our job here is to give our kids age-appropriate freedom. It’s our kids’ job to prove that they can be trusted with it. Thus… loosen the purse strings slowly. Whether you let them out more or pull back depends largely on how your teen handles it.
They’re Going Through an Identity Crisis
Webster defines an identity crisis as “A feeling of unhappiness and confusion caused by not being sure about what type of person you really are or what the true purpose of your life is.” If that doesn’t sum up teenagers, I don’t know what does.
Sure, some teens have a grip on who they are, but the vast majority are trying to figure out who they should be, where and how they want to fit in, and what their future should look like. All this confusion and self-reflection can really put a teen into a mental tailspin.
The trick here is to let your teen try things on for size – a new hairstyle, a new style of dress, different friends, and different experiences. Let them zero in on what makes them happy. In time, they’ll figure out who they’re meant to be.
We’d be remiss if we didn’t touch on the exhausting academic pressure our kids are faced with day in and day out. It kicks in when they start middle school and the pressure mounts with each passing year.
More often than not, it’s triggered by the exhausting goal to craft the perfect college resume. The intense focus on grades, a stellar ACT or SAT score, landing internships, volunteering, getting involved in sports and other extracurricular activities, etc.
Even the toughest egg is bound to crack under all this pressure… and your teen is no different. (Truthfully, if you put all that pressure on me, I’d be a bear to deal with, too!)
Our teens have a TON to deal with right now – internally, externally, socially, and academically. It’s a lot to handle for a person who’s been on this earth a little more than a decade. Of course, we can’t allow them to get away with ongoing crummy or disrespectful behavior, but what we can do is try to understand what they’re going through and offer them a little grace on their bad days. They need to know they’re not going it alone and that we really are with them, side by side.
Note: If your teen seems depressed, unable to cope with life or their struggle is ongoing, reach out for medical advice.