"We're part of the family too! Include us in what's going on even if we decide to pass on it most of the time."
This comment from a teenager sums up what a paradox adolescence can be. Some days your teenager won't want to be seen dead with the rest of the family. Yet on others they just might want to come along -- or at least be asked if they'd like to.
The teenage years are a time of contradictions -- for young people as well as their parents. On the one hand there's the excitement of becoming aware of new things, having new opportunities to grasp and growing into a new body.
Yet, on the other, there's the confusion and embarrassment that the physical changes of puberty can bring, and the emotional highs and lows that hormonal changes can cause. Teenagers can also feel a sense of loss as the freedom and simplicity of their childhood start to recede.
Many parents will understand that their teenager wants to establish an identity away from the family. Yet they will be confused that the way they choose to do that is to take on someone else's identity -- from their peer group or from a music hero or heroine.
Yet they do still want the option of belonging. When all else fails it's their bedroom they're likely to retreat to albeit with the door firmly shut and the music turned up loud.
This, too, is a paradox parents can find difficult to understand -- that their teenager either wants to live very much in the world -- including being out on the streets till late at night -- or locked away in their own private world that only their peers can enter.
Teenagers are all different but most parents will recognise some or all of these types of behaviour. As well as feeling frustrated and sometimes infuriated with their children, parents too can experience a sense of loss around this time.
They might feel they are losing the child they used to relate to so well, the child they have watched develop and spent so much time with over the years. When their first child enters adolescence it can also mark the loss of their family as it used to be.
Many parents find it useful to be able to talk through their reactions and emotions when they feel at the end of their tether with their teenager. Often this will be with their partner, if they are parenting together, or with a trusted friend or a counsellor. Just talking about it can help to get your life back into perspective.
It can also be important to identify your own responses to your child's behaviour. If you seem to be responding in a forceful way there may be something else feeding your reactions. It can help to talk this through with someone you trust, as well, rather than constantly bouncing it off your teenager.
If you would like to talk to a counsellor about living with a teenager, you can contact Relationships Aotearoa on 0800 735 283 or telephone your local office.