The following is a press release:
“How can my child talk to me that way?” wonder parents of teenagers. A child who was once well-behaved becomes disrespectful and full of attitude, and the parents end up feeling angry, frustrated, and helpless.
According to Joani Geltman, an expert in teen-parent relationships, this is one of the most common causes of discord in households with teens.
“Parents need to understand that their kids are not doing these things to them in a personal way. Teenagers are simply missing the ‘edit’ button. The disrespectful behavior is developmental, and once parents understand this and can stop feeling hurt, they can take a step back and implement some strategies to help curb the behavior,” Geltman said.
Geltman arms her parents with just those strategies at a talk titled “Adolescent Psychology: The Parent Version.”
The Stoughton Schools Parent Engagement Center and Stoughton OASIS are bringing Geltman to Stoughton this Thursday, Feb. 28 from 7 p.m. until 9 p.m. at the O’Donnell Middle School.
“I send parents home with very practical tools they can begin to use immediately. We have fun during the program, though, because it’s important to keep in mind that the teen years are but a moment in time. Things do get better. You need to be able to inject some humor into the situation so the parental anxiety level goes down,” Geltman said.
In her talk, Geltman reviews the many physical, cognitive, and emotional/social changes that occur in adolescence.
“Adolescent brains are changing and this drives their behaviors. It’s like having a new computer and you don’t quite know how it works yet. Teens have all these new ideas, thoughts, curiosity, and feelings happening at once and they don’t have the emotional experience to handle the overload. They end up making lots of mistakes and crashing the computer. The parents then try to help them fix it, but with a new computer you really need to fiddle around with it yourself. You can’t have someone tell you how to use it. It’s the same with teens,” Geltman said.
According to Geltman, parents of teens find themselves pushed to the periphery of their child’s world, where they were once at its center. The teen relationship also tends to become issue-based versus fun-based.
The days of sitting down and playing a game with your child are over. Instead, parents become micromanagers – “Did you do your homework?”; “Where are you going?”; “Did you clean your room?”
Geltman stresses that during the teen years, parents need to find new ways to build and maintain the relationship so the fun and laughter are not lost.
“Another big problem is that parents have unrealistic expectations. For example, they get mad when their teenager is disorganized, has a messy room, or forgets her homework at home. Remember their brains are on overload, so whatever is at the top of their mind when they leave the house is what will take precedence. Your daughter really meant to take her homework to school, but when a friend texted her as she was walking out the door, that became her new priority,” Geltman said.
“Instead of getting mad, parents need to recognize that something is not working and needs to be handled differently.”
No matter where a parent is in the process, in the midst of the teen years or with them looming on the horizon, Geltman’s talk can provide valuable tools.
“If your child is in elementary school, you can set up a foundation early for what lies ahead. If you’re currently dealing with a completely disrespectful teen, there are ways to fix the situation. When the parent changes, the child’s behavior will change in kind,” she said.
Parents who attend the talk will leave better prepared to:
- Set appropriate limits so your teen will want to follow them
- Teen-proof your relationship
- Teen-proof your home
- Learn about your teens’ imaginary audience and personal fable
- Develop effective tools for identifying and dealing with teen experimentation with sex, drugs, and alcohol, texting and the internet
- Identify risk factors for teen depression and anxiety
- Set realistic expectations
Joani Geltman, MSW, has worked as a therapist, parenting coach and consultant for 30 years. She is on the faculty at Lesley University and Curry College.