Therapy for Teenagers
I have been working with teens in one form or another since 1997. It begins with establishing a sound and safe therapeutic relationship and then supporting their growth within the family unit and the community.
The goal for any parent of a teenager is to maintain trust in the relationship as the dependency in the relationship slowly wanes (Article on the importance of Parental Relationship). The importance of the relationship should be maintained even though the roles change. The parents' job is extremely difficult as they have to balance being in dual roles that are often contradictory of each other. Parents need to make the hard decisions of when to clamp down and be the boss, and when to back off and be a supportive guide.
It’s best if parents remind themselves that over the next decade (from 13 to 23) you will move from being the “boss" to being the "top advisor." It can be surprisingly difficult to give up that role especially since there aren’t clear markers for when the changes happen. Very few people are considered independent, self-sufficient adults on their 18th birthday. For that matter, college graduates these days are finding it harder and harder to begin their career right out of college. They’re finding it very hard to support themselves financially and can be dependent upon their parents for years after college. This blurred division between dependent adolescent and independent young adult can cause a lot of friction.
Try to see your teens behaviors as a natural part of their movement toward independence. I have had many many parents complain to me about how utterly nonsense their teen’s complaints are. “How can he be complaining? He has everything someone could ask for and more!” You’re right. All things being equal, your teenager is often complaining about nonsense, but he or she is only fulfilling a part of his natural process in becoming an adult. Frustrating, yes, but common and necessary all the same.
I find it often helps to view the situation from a more scientific point of view. There have been many advancements in our understanding of the neurology of teenagers. Much of their risk taking, emotional volatility, and poor decision making can be explained in how the brain develops. These videos do a very good job of describing it in a clear way.