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Why Teens Do Crazy Things

    Crushes, dating, high school, driving, dances, pressures -- welcome to adolescence! A swirling vortex of hormones, conflicting ideas, thoughts, and fears that transitions an innocent child into the tempest of teenage-hood. Thus begins a whole new confusing world. . . and plenty of battles with the parents.

    As I entered my teen years, I felt torn between wanting to be considered �cool� by everyone around me and just being myself. I felt like I had to be one of those Crest/Pantene Pro-V/ Banana Boat spokesgirls with the hulking 6�8 quarterback boyfriend. In my mind, the entire world was filled with beautiful, happy, mature teens, and I just wasn�t one of them. I felt very different, very alone. At that time in my life, it seemed like everything had turned sideways � I was no longer content with being the naive, overachieving kid that I�d always been � I just wanted to be �cool.�

    Until the age of 13, I was what parents would classify as �perfect� and peers would classify as �nerd.� I skipped first grade and was at the top of the class at my Christian school. I attended church at least three times a week. I had a horrible circa-1990 bowl cut, wore giant plastic hoop earrings, and I committed repeated social suicide � I wore my mother�s clothes. (I have done my best to destroy any and all pictures from that era). And to make things worse, a boy in my class at school made known to me and everyone around me that I wasn�t accepted � he continually made fun of the way I looked and my body (we�ll just say I was �developmentally challenged� in specific areas) and it tore me apart. His teasing left scars that haunted me for years. I just didn�t fit in. But when I turned thirteen, I was finished with being a pushover � I was tired of being walked all over, I wanted a new image, and I wanted a new life.

    One weekend, my best friend and I went with our church to Six Flags for the weekend. There we met two brothers who became our �Six Flags boyfriends� and with one of them I had my first kiss � innocent, exciting, and I was giddy that I finally felt accepted. For the first time, I really felt like I was �somebody.� But when my parents found out from my supposed best friend who told them about me and the guy, my mom bawled, my dad overreacted (actually called the boy and threatened to call the cops on him for . . . unauthorized kissing?), and I was grounded for weeks. (But don�t be too hard on my dad � many times parents go through a bout of temporary insanity when dealing with new teens).

    I think it was the combination of a lot of things that jumpstarted my spiral downward: feeling like a social loser; betrayal by a trusted friend; and finally I felt �cool� and accepted, and then my dad snatched that feeling away by frightening away the first guy that ever made me feel good about myself. It really hurt.

    I also had limited attention from my parents. During that time, my sister, who has severe medical problems, had several brain surgeries. Since I was obedient and the �good kid,� my parents kind of overlooked me to take care of my sister. I felt like (though I probably couldn�t have articulated it at the time) my own emotional needs weren�t being met, and I didn�t really know how to fend for myself. It left me with insecurity and some bitterness at my parents.

    This collision of childhood with adolescence was rough for me. I felt that my parents wanted to keep me chained to their ideal of the perfect little girl and I was determined to break free. That�s not at all what my parents had in mind, but tangled in the web of my strong will and adolescent egocentricity, that�s what I had come to believe.

    As I look back on those years, I realize the teasing and feeling out of place were completely normal and in and of themselves not a big deal. But at that age, I didn�t feel strong enough and I wasn�t mature enough to push aside those negative comments from my peers. So I believed them. Those first years of adolescence were some of my most vulnerable ones, and at that time, I don�t think I had the self-confidence or self-esteem to deal with rejection.

    So driven by my determination to be something different, from the ages of 13 to 18, I set about on my journey to �find myself� � which turned into self-destruction. Seven stays in rehab, 15 counselors, 12+ high schools, and many consequences later, I was back where I began � alone and clueless as to who I really was.

    But don�t be afraid! My story is an unusual and extreme one. Today I am pretty �normal� � a 22-year-old college student who enjoys music, volunteering, and hanging out. My parents and I share a wonderful relationship, and they are honestly two of my closest friends. Most of your kids will not take you to hell and back simply to find themselves � though you�ll face struggles. I am one of the rare extremes. While it�s normal for teenagers to want to �break away� from their parents and find their own identities, I went to the extreme. My personality is such that I do things 110% or not at all. And unfortunately, I went the wrong way. I wanted an identity away from the nerdy goody-goody and away from my peers who had hurt me. I wanted an identity independent of my dad�s church (he�s a pastor) and from all who had known me since I was a baby. In short, I just wanted the basic human desire to feel loved and accepted � but I went about it all wrong.

    As I look back on those years, I know one thing for sure: for most, the teenage years bring on a certain type of mental retardation that I like to call �teenagerus stupidus.� I was insane! I can�t believe that I took the risks I did and hung out with people I did. It finally took a near-death bout with alcohol to jolt me back to reality and to question what I was doing with my life. Though I don�t have any fool-proof solutions to guarantee that your tweens won�t act the way I did, I do have a few tips to carry you through the transition to the teen years.

    1. Don�t panic. Drastic changes in your teen�s attitudes and behaviors can be shocking, but don�t lose it! You must draw the line somewhere, but moodiness, general brattiness, and wanting to experiment with one�s appearance, for example, are pretty normal. Temper your reactions, and don�t lose control about the little things.

    2. Be flexible. I don�t at all recommend, say, coed sleepovers and 4 am curfews, but if your teen wants to stay out a little bit later, give it a shot. Allow the freedom for your teen to figure out who they are (within acceptable boundaries). Adolescence is a time of tremendous growth and change � make an effort to guide your teen rather than to control them.

    3. The most important of all: unconditional love. This is the most important thing in any and all relationships. Though the alcohol poisoning and the thought of losing my life frightened me, it was my parents� love that truly brought me back home. No matter how bad things got, my parents never turned their backs on me. The beautiful relationship we have today is a result of their resolve to never stop loving me, even when I was completely unlovable. You�ll probably face fights and disagreements, and the transition into adolescence may be rocky, but you are never on the losing end of things when you choose to love. So hug your future �teenagerus stupidus� today.

    by Heather Stone

    Charles and Heather Stone, authors of DAUGHTERS GONE WILD, DADS GONE CRAZY share the realities of their 6-year nightmare of Heather's adolescent rebellion, in the hopes of fostering hope for the millions of families trying to survive the years from thirteen to eighteen. Replete with faith, honesty, and practicality, the book offers readers nine practical lessons and provides a compass for even the worst tempests of teen rebellion. Excerpt: http://www.parentadvisors.com/excerpt/dgwdgc.pdf

    reprint courtesy of www.parentadvisors.com

    Used by permission. Adapted from DAUGHTERS GONE WILD, DADS GONE CRAZY by Charles and Heather Stone (Thomas Nelson Publishers, Copyright 2005).