Wellness & Fitness

Teens, parents conflict normal


Teen and parent conflicts are normal. PHOTO | POOL

Question: At the age of 17, my mother treats me like a child and will not even let me bring my girlfriends home. Is she normal?

Answer: It is with a smile on my face that I read your question since I can understand your concern about the state of mind of your mother.

Not having examined her, I cannot say for sure if she is normal or not but can tell you that many parents of teenagers go through a crisis in relationships as is clearly the case with you and your mother.

To that extent, therefore, chances are more than likely that your mother is normal in a statistical sense, meaning that many mothers have similar concerns and attitudes.

Several years ago, a son and mother were brought to our psychology department for the evaluation of a problem similar to yours.

The young man was of the view that his mother was old-fashioned. Their arguments were wide-ranging and included major and minor issues of life.

There was, for example, a lack of understanding between them with regard to spirituality.

The boy felt it right to be allowed to explore all the available religions before he could commit to the Christian ways his mother wanted him to adhere to and commit to.

On the other end, the young man demanded autonomy not only in the way he dressed but also in how he spent his time.

He tried to persuade his mother that if he had good grades at school and did not get into any trouble, he should be left on his own.

For her part, the mother insisted that until he finishes school and goes to university, he had to live in accordance with her rules and she did not want the younger siblings to copy his bad habits.

This was an impasse that was occasioned by the fact that in some ways, both parties were right and in a sense, two immovable rights had collided and could not be moved without hurting one or even both sides.

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It was clear to the team that what mother and son needed was to understand each other better and to appreciate where the other was coming from in the quest to appreciate the difficulties they were facing.

The sessions were easy because both of them had come with open minds.

In the first session, mother and son were asked to ‘wear’ the sons’ shoes and to research adolescence and the emotional, physical and psychological changes that characterise this phase of development.

They were both surprised to find that some of the things they fought about were beyond the control of the young man.

For example, the biological clock that determines sleeping time shifts by two hours in teenagers.

Instead of sleeping at 9 pm, the teenage clock shifts to 11 pm and instead of waking up at 6 am wakes up at 8 am.

This lightbulb moment freed them of their daily fights over sleeping time.

The following week was for the son to ‘wear’ the shoes of the mother. Similar and profound revelations came to the young man who understood that without order in the home, the mother would be unable to bring up her family.

Though a little obsessional in her approach to things, the mother was discharging her mandate as the custodian of order at the family level.

In time, it became obvious that the two were beginning to cope better with each other and after a few months were good friends and were letting each other have the space they needed to do.

In your case, your mother probably means well when she does not allow girls in large numbers to come home all the time, but she must also be told, that normal 17-year-old boy are attracted to girls!

Some of these seeming crises are resolved easily without recourse to mental health experts by simply getting a conversation between you and your parents going, at a time when there is no crisis.

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Uncles and aunts are also valuable agents for such tasks, as are the friends of your parents.

The simple answer to your question, therefore, is that both you and your mother are normal and only need to talk to each other about your concerns.

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