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The Competent Parent: Horrid Teen

Headshot2011Welcome to our weekly online series on parenting advice with local expert Dr. Deborah Wood.

Horrid Teen

Dear Dr. Wood,

OMG I am ready to commit myself to the looney bin or ship my two teenage girls to boarding school…they are horrid.

Tell me again why I had children


To answer your signature, probably for the same reasons most of us did—believing in the awesome possibilities of parenthood. It’s an amazing journey of development, from genetic code being passed on through cell division to the ultimate success of a human being’s achieving his or her unique potential over a lifetime of learning.

Then again, some polls say half of all pregnancies are unplanned or at least mis-timed. And every stage of parenthood has its unexpected challenges. In her book, “The Six Stages of Parenthood,” Ellen Galinsky says that even before the children arrive, the first stage is fantasy. The perfect baby, the perfect skill set to understand and meet your baby’s needs, a perfect support system, etc., etc., etc. Then reality, and its continued rude awakenings, sets in.

The teenage years seem to get tougher with each generation, or maybe parents just forget how much trouble we got into when we were young. Certainly as teens we didn’t see things from our parents’ perspective—the worry, the wider-world view of how a teen’s poor choices can have consequences that are short-term, long-term or can bear life-threatening dangers. The harrowing experience of teaching a teen to drive, for one, can turn your hair white.

Not knowing more about your particular teens’ issues, I would recommend sharing your frustrations with a counselor or peer support group (some middle and high schools have them, run by the school counselor or parents themselves).

For the specific needs of your family, see if there’s a resource on this checklist compiled by Anne Arundel County Public Schools: http://aacps.org/html/Parents/studres.pdf. Although the “compliance” note on the bottom says it’s required that a parent receive a copy of the list if a student is suspended or expelled, I’m sure you’d agree it’s better to take action sooner than later. A more comprehensive list of local resources can be found at: http://www.jlannapolis.org/content/jla/TeenResourceGuide2007.pdf. This handy guide has been updated and re-published several times by the Junior League of Annapolis.

A list of local and national services for behavioral health needs can be found at the Network of Care site for Anne Arundel County: http://annearundel.md.networkofcare.org/mh/home/index.cfm. And lastly, Anne Arundel Community College has a division called the Parenting Center, http://www.aacc.edu/parenting/ with guest speakers and non-credit classes including one-on-one workshops such as Managing Anger in Family Life, and online courses such as Understanding Adolescents (starting dates from January 18, 2012 all the way to May 16, 2012). Courses are offered in three semesters (Winter, Summer, and Fall). So be sure to check back for future course offerings.

Gather strength from a community that cares about its teens and their parents.

Dr. Debbie

Dr. Deborah Wood is a child development specialist in Annapolis. She holds a doctorate in Human Development from the University of Maryland at College Park and is founding director of the Chesapeake Children’s Museum. Long time fans and new readers can find many of her “Understanding Children” columns archived on the Chesapeake Family Magazine website. You can find her online at www.drdebbiewood.com

What do you think? Leave your thoughts in the comments or submit a question to Dr. Debbie at editor@chesapeakefamily.com 

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