ADOLESCENCE HARD ON PARENTS, TOO
When I was a kid we were very aware of the generation
gap. We called ourselves “freaks” because we thought we were
different. We thought we were having a revolution. Our
parents looked on, dismayed, bewildered, and resentful
that we didn’t seem to appreciate the sacrifices they had
made to guarantee our lives of prosperity and freedom.
Now the worm has turned. The machinery of life has
chewed us up and spit us out. Now, we are the parents.
We’re getting what we used to give and giving what we used to
get. Now we see why it’s hard to raise adolescents.
Temple University psychology professor, Laurence
Steinberg, made a three-year study of two
hundred families whose oldest child was entering adolescence.
Steinberg discovered that forty percent of the parents
underwent an abrupt decline in their own mental health at the
time of their oldest child’s adolescence. They felt
rejected, powerless and full of regrets about their own life
University of Illinois researchers, Reed Larson and
Maryse Richards have found a hazardous perception gap between
fathers and teens. Fathers who perceived themselves as
involved, effective parents had kids who felt unheard,
misunderstood and angry about being steamrollered. Many
fathers were so unskilled at reading teens’ emotional signals
that they perceived them as much happier than they were.
Mothers, it was found, were likely to be hyper-aware of
their childrens’ changing relationship with them. Between
fifth and eighth grade, most kids withdraw from their mothers
and take less pleasure in their company. Mothers continue to
feel as warmly as ever and are hurt by the loss of affection
and companionship as kids detach.
The temptation is strong for parents to detach, also.
Faced with their own impotence, vulnerability and the
competing pressures of other demands on their time, parents
are likely to back off. Rejection is not easy to take.
But parents should resist this temptation and stay
involved. Teens still need their support, guidance and love.