Navigating adolescence is an enormous task, one that surely has never been easy, but nowadays is fraught with risks and uncertainties barely imagined a generation ago (internet, social networking, texting, cell phones, online video gaming with virtual identities). In adolescence, these can become avenues for rebellion and escape, yet importantly, they are only providing a new context for a developmental theme that has been around for generations.
Rebellion is a staple of adolescence, and parents can feel confused, frustrated, disengaged, angry, and upset when this turns into a tiring struggle. One of the hardest things is for parents not lose sight of how important they are despite all this turmoil. Consider, for example, a woman in her early 50s who goes to awaken her sleepy son so he won't miss breakfast in the hotel where they are staying.
This fifteen year old boy shuffles noisily into the breakfast room, grabs a large bowl that he carelessly dumps cereal into until it spills over the rim, and sits down grimly across from his mother. She makes a few attempts to talk with him about their plans for the day, but he only scowls and grunts. Then, like a cloudburst, he loudly shares his opinions about how dumb, stupid, idiotic and mindless this all sounds to him.
She nods for a bit, lets him rant, and finally says, “Eat your breakfast.”
This surly guy turns and smiles at us, like Mr. Hyde suddenly changing into Dr. Jekyll. In a cheerful tone, he says “good morning” and gives a friendly wave. I think this scene reveals a painful contradiction when parenting an adolescent: good acts are often met with rejection.
This is the tough work of parenting an adolescent: remembering to keep it simple, choose your battles, hope for a better day, and remind them that you are looking out for them. Sometimes, “eat your breakfast” is the best one can do.