We’ve all seen teenage angst depicted on movie screens or read about it in books. We know these portrayals intimately because we’ve seen them so many times and possibly lived them ourselves. It’s the battle between teen angst and parental anxiety. There is yelling, door slamming, dramatic exiting, crying, pleading. Clichèd portrayals like this exist because there is truth within them. 

Lately, my house has felt a bit like one of these clichèd depictions and it’s been rough. The mix of teenage and midlife hormones makes for a perfect storm of emotional chaos. The truth is that the adolescent years can be bumpy, both for the adolescents themselves and for their parents. 

However, there is comfort in the fact that this really is just a phase. If there’s one thing we can always count on, it’s change (this is a good thing to remind your teen of, too!). Eventually, moments of forgiveness and understanding can and will unfold, especially if you remember that you’re the adult in the room. You have the benefit of life experience and wisdom and you can put those things to work in both of your favors. Here are a few of the ways to tap into your wisdom, stay calm, and carry on: 

Read! Remember how many books and resources you tapped into when you were pregnant or parenting your children as babies and toddlers? Do the same thing now if you haven’t already. It turns out that we all run into the occasional issues while raising teens and there are plenty of bright minds who have spent years thinking about and researching the subject. A few of my favorites include: 

Brainstorm: The Power and the Purpose of the Teenage Brain by Daniel J. Siegel

How to Raise an Adult by Julie Lythcott-Haims

Psychology Today has an entire section of its website dedicated to Parenting Teens for quick guidance when you need it.  

Talk to other parents and encourage your teen to talk to their friends. There truly is great consolation in knowing that you are not alone. Whenever I’ve shared some of the more humbling moments of parenthood with someone else, I’ve not only received great empathy, but also revelations of similar experiences. Likewise, encouraging your teen to share their feelings with a friend or counselor can be incredibly helpful. None of us are alone and as the inimitably wonderful Brené Brown teaches, allowing ourselves to be vulnerable is one of the most empowering things we can do. 

Support, don’t micro-manage. Their brains are telling them to explore this world and it’s our job to let them. If they’re burdened with myriad rules and activities that are all of your choosing, they’ll feel powerless which is demoralizing and can lead to anger or rebellion. They need to forge their own path and start to experience the impact of their own choices and actions. I’m not suggesting a totally indulgent, rule-free approach, but they need enough slack to discover who they are and what makes them tick as individuals in this big, wide world, rather than have you dictate things. Let them make decisions, but be there for support along the way because they will inevitably need you. 

Accept them as they are. Let go of the expectations you might have about who your child should be. Your child is not going to be you, or who you wish you’d become, or who you want them to become. Your child will likely be different from whatever preconceived notions you had, and the more you embrace that, the happier you both will be in the long run. 

Give them space. Remember when you were a teenager? I spent countless hours on the telephone with friends late into the night and many more hours watching TV and running around with friends. You don’t need to know every single little thing they’re doing. The chemical changes in their brains are telling them to get some distance from their parents (that’s part of preparing to eventually fly off on their own), so give it to them. 

Use the space for yourself. Guess what? The space you give your teen frees up space and time for yourself! This is a gift. Now is the time to dig deeper into your relationship with yourself, your partner, your friends. Now is the time to try out that watercolors class you’ve been coveting or start training for a half-marathon. Take a cue from your teen who’s trying new things and being social – you should do those things too! 

Know that this will be humbling. You’ll make mistakes and so will your teen. After an emotional flare-up the other day, I said to my teenage son, “I’m sorry, this is my first time parenting a teen and sometimes I have no idea what I’m doing.” As we hugged, he said, “Yep. It’s my first time growing up, so I’m pretty clueless too.” 

We march on, we keep trying. It’s going to be OK. This is just a phase.