Friday, June 5, 2009

The Stresses of Raising Teenagers

The under-appreciated stresses of raising teenagers is the flip side of shows like "Teens of New York". There are stresses inherent in raising children that childless or single people don't realize. The problems aren't that teachers don't teach or take good care of teenagers, they do much more than that; teachers and parents together form the lives of teenagers that they will take with them as they mature.

The stresses have more to do with circumstances many teenagers experience. They are almost grown up, but they have a lot more growing up to do before they're self-sufficient. They want more freedom, but they can't afford to have it.

They want to go places. And when friends can't go, teenagers want parents to stand in and take them anyway, at times. Whether it's movies or rock shows, parents have some opportunities they're drafted for, whether they want to have any part of them or not.

Whether it's ballerina, music or soccer practices, parents are expected to encourage and cheerlead their kids. In the suburbs, they get involved intensely with sports and hobbies, only sometimes by choice. Of course, the demands can take on a life of their own, and take over the lives of the parents. Parents will do things they didn't ever think possible, just to please or entertain their kids.

Of course, the stress level is less physical than it was when children are babies, up every night and crying with colic during meals. But when they are older, they need attention and love and money from time to time. They need parental support. They need car drives, vacations, and they need financial backing.

Where does all that leave parents? Feeling a great deal of stress! How can it not be stressful to try to constantly be all things to a loved one? It's clearly impossible. Parents all have different capacities and strengths. They can offer money in differing amounts. They can offer teenagers their energy driving them to hockey or ballet classes. They can help them with homework depending on their intellectual capabilities and emotional capacities. They can offer teenagers their life-learned lessons of advice.

Where's the stress? When parents feel they don't live up in some way to the entanglements that are at the hearts of the lives of teenagers. Teenagers' relationships with their friends sometimes are influenced by how far away from each other they live, by how much parents will help out, and by how much money parents will fork over to pay for entertainment and lessons, even private schools and cars, summer schools and higher education, the social standing, education and employment of parents. Then there's the issue of frequency, distance, quality of vacations, and comparing modes of transportation to the vacations spots. It's inevitable that kids use these as talking points, sometimes bragging either in the classroom or socially.

Teenagers usually tell their parents constantly about how well they stack up to "the Joneses". Parents can't usually do much about it. They are what and who they are. Children just have to accept their circumstances, but they are too impatient to do so.

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