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  • The teen years are characterized by significant developmental changes that often make this time difficult.
  • It’s important that parents keep their teen’s struggles in mind and do their best to understand what they’re going through.
  • First, teenagers struggle with the journey of self-discovery: they’re trying to understand who they are while also factoring in what everyone expects them to be.
  • Teens also yearn for greater independence and privacy, as they try to figure out life for themselves.
  • Additionally, teenagers struggle to create and maintain relationships, whilst battling negative thinking patterns that make every other endeavor more difficult.
  • Furthermore, teens must deal with harmful feelings of inadequacy, of which come with the pressures of society and are exacerbated by the media.

Do you remember what it’s like to be a teenager? I can remember bits and pieces: hurrying to straighten my hair before school; swallowing my anxiety while scripting the perfect text back to my crush; gossiping with friends in the cafeteria (as a desperate attempt to fit in); and struggling to understand what the heck is going on in calculus.

In sum, when I think back on my teens, I remember it being tough. But it’s almost impossible to remember just how difficult these years were. The thing is, it’s important as a mother or father to a teen that you brush up on all of the struggles that come with this stage of development so you can best help your kid through it. Don’t worry, you don’t have to rely on your memory—you can instead take it from several mental health professionals who work with teens and truly understand their struggles. Here are 5 struggles characteristic of teenhood, according to these professionals:

1) Self-discovery.

Dr. Kimberly Ciardella, licensed marriage and family therapist, says the journey of self-discovery introduces a lot of stress and anxiety into teenagers’ lives: “The teenage years are full of more growth than many stages in our lives; it is the point in which we form most of our identity. It is the stage of our lives where we are asking ourselves who we want to be and what feels like fits with our sense of self. Teenagers are struggling with a huge task: self-discovery and self-definition.” Ciardella goes on to explain how societal standards only add to the pressures of self-discovery. “We have expectations for teenagers that by the end of high school they should have a pretty good idea about what they want to do for the rest of their lives. That is a pretty daunting request. And teens feel the pressure to do this as well as conform to the many standards that are set within the confines of their own social circles, family, and culture. Teenagers are struggling with more anxiety than ever before due to these pressures and avenues by which they now feel them.”

2) Yearning for independence and privacy.

Teens also struggle with their sudden, yet strong desire for independence and privacy, as explained by Psychoanalyst Claudia Luiz: “One of the things teens struggle with the most is wanting privacy and having parents who still expect them to be little. Teens have a lot of private thoughts and feelings as they emerge into adulthood and really need to be left alone and respected. Teens whose parents try to immerse themselves too much in their lives, by controlling their behavior, by trying to influence them, end up stressing teens out. I tell all parents to try to leave teens alone, opening up conversations with a lot of questions and gentleness if there are concerns, but otherwise butting out as much as possible. It takes a lot of trust to do this, and a lot of pretend-confidence in your child, but the less you stress your kid out, the more likely it is that you will be in their head in a positive way.”

3) Relationship maintenance.

Licensed Therapist Mark Shoemaker says teens also have a hard time learning how to create and maintain relationships. “The teen years can be some of the most difficult years to navigate in a person’s life. One difficult part of a teen’s life is learning how to make and maintain relationships,” he explains. “Middle school and high school are prime years for teens to learn how to relate to people who aren’t their family members on a personal and intimate level. Not only are they attempting to relate to others, but so is everyone else. Teens can become nervous during this time and begin to put up defenses like anger, isolation, or anxiety. They will race rejection in some way because they aren’t relationship experts and it will be painful.”

4) Negative thinking.

Janika Joyner, licensed clinical social worker, adds that teens engage in negative thinking patterns: catastrophic thinking in specific. “A common thinking error that some of the teens that I have worked with is catastrophic thinking,” she explains. “This type of thinking can fall in the category of all-or-nothing. Teens see things in absolute black and white. Either their lives are all good or all bad,” she explains. “They do not see things as being okay or gray. Parents who are aware of these types of thinking errors can assist their children with learning how to find a happy medium and apply age-appropriate coping skills to help prevent anxiety and depression from increasing.”

5) Feelings of inadequacy.

Lastly, teens deal with harmful feelings of inadequacy and suffer with a low self-esteem. Psychotherapist Emmy Brunner delves deeper into everyday pressures and how they affect teens: “We live in a society that profits from our insecurities, and because we’re constantly told that we can look and ‘be’ better, we buy into it. By being so desperate for a lifestyle that provides answers to these ‘problems,’ we idolize people (even our friends/family) who appear to embody the perfect way to be and this is starting younger and younger. It’s dangerous because these messages of ‘not being good enough’ are teaching young women and men to nurture an internal bully who forces us to apologize over and over for being inadequate. Couple this with the power of social media and the unescapable scrutiny upon their bodies, it’s hard for teenagers especially to see that they can identify themselves by anything other than their appearance.”

The truth is that the teen years are some of the most difficult years of our lives. And naturally, we often need a little extra guidance or support to make it through. If you think that your child could use some professional assistance, book a child therapy session. A therapist or counselor can help your teen navigate this tough time and reach their greatest potential. Find a Thriveworks location near you, or book an online session! Either way, your teen will get the help they need.

Taylor Bennett

Taylor Bennett

Taylor Bennett is a staff writer at Thriveworks. She devotes herself to distributing important information about mental health and wellbeing, writing mental health news and self-improvement tips daily. Taylor received her bachelor’s degree in multimedia journalism, with minors in professional writing and leadership from Virginia Tech. She has published content on Thought Catalog, Odyssey, and The Traveling Parent.

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