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Understanding Your Teenager Not Mandatory; Often Elusive

I wish to help you relate with your teenager and to help you accept and enjoy, if not understand, your child.

Notice two things in the last statement. First, I said, “accept and enjoy…your child.” That won’t always be the case when it comes to his/her behavior. I will write more about that later. Second, I said, “if not understand your child.” Understanding is a wonderful and often elusive experience. I always encourage the pursuit of understanding, but if we use it as a prerequisite to peace, pleasure and happiness within a household of parents and adolescents, we guarantee frequent failure. We can never know how another individual experiences the world. The more similar we are, the easier it is to guess correctly and maybe even predict future behavior based on past behavior. Parents and adolescents are not similar. Even when the family resemblance is “striking” and temperament of a teenager of yours “reminds me of me when I was his/her age,” you are different than your child. You had different parents than your child does (I have often been identified as a master of the obvious). Silly as it may sound, I remind you of that to assist you in recognizing the differences between you and your kid. I could go on about how different the world is today and how much more difficult it is to be a teenager today than “in our day” and blah, blah, blah to make my point of this difference, but the difference is built right into the relationship. You can’t be a parent without having a child. Plain and simple. His/her existence brought your parentness into being (of course if you have a second child, you are a parent already before becoming another’s parent). Without parents (in the most biological sense), there could be no children. Without children, there could be no parents. This is called the parent/child dichotomy. Dichotomy is defined as “a division into two opposing parts.” Each requires the other for clear definition. Dichotomies help describe and explain the world. There can be no “on” without “off;” no “up” without “down;” no “in” without “out.” Anyhow, it is this built-in “division into two opposing parts” that assures difference between you and your teenager. This difference contributes to the difficulty of gaining complete (or even partial in some instances) understanding of your child. We, as thinking human beings, seem to need to separate in order to understand. Adolescents try to separate (literally) from us in order to understand the world as they try to develop the means, knowledge, and confidence to effectively meet their needs when on their own.

Never give up on attempting to understand your child. Please don’t hold it against your teenager (or yourself) when you don’t.

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