What parent doesn't occasionally agonize over the challenges that teenagers bring to a family? Their hormones are raging and the teen brain (I hear their frontal lobes are not fully-developed, which accounts for their lack of empathy) seems to be out of control. I long for the days when our sweet little dearies used to love family vacations.

The day I gave up the fantasy that I'd skate through the teenage years, I crossed over from denial into reality. My fantasy was my boys would never turn into evil teens because we were so close. My reality was hiding in the upstairs bathroom on a regular basis with my own television. I missed the old days when I was viewed as the smartest parent in the world.

I reminisced about the old days. In my youngest son's eyes, I went from an intelligent, savvy, and socially-competent parent to some sort of import from an alien galaxy where only fumbling fools were allowed to live. I was never to talk to him or his friends at a school function. ("Mom you ruined my life! Don't ever talk to my friends again, it's soooo embarrassing!") My elder son suddenly rejected every aspect of normal family life, and said his future career choice would prepare him to be a CIA agent and sell antiquities on the side. Of course, he also made it clear he would never get married and have kids.

Lately, I will admit my fantasies alternate between running away to a spiritual retreat for mothers of teenage boys and seeking revenge on my sons. The retreat scenario involves a guru who miraculously grants me the patience to endure them both until they leave for college, where, of course they realize that nobody is going to do their laundry. They then have an epiphany about my contribution to their life. The revenge scenario involves sneaking into their rooms at night and lop off the hair that they are convinced looks cooler than Zac Efron's.

In my retreat fantasy, I become little grasshopper and am completely centered in the eternal moment of now. I then return home with enough worldly wisdom to establish my place in the world again. Being a positive thinker, this could happen if I keep practicing the Law of Attraction.

Teens need a lot of behind the scenes guidance to learn to become good decision-makers. No matter what your teen's convoluted perception is of the world may be, it is important to show them that they are endeared by others. So guide them with patience and love. Be open-minded.Soon your teens will ask your friends or work colleagues for parental advice (because they won't ask you for any) and maybe your friends can slide in a few bonus compliments about you. Teenagers can't reciprocate a lot of love. The best you can do is to meet them on their own terms. Show them you can manage your emotions but be a Vulcan when you need to be. Be capable of butting out of their lives completely and pick your battles. When they want your credit card, be sure to use the opportunity to have some sort of conversation about the weather, life, or even what they are doing at school.

Let's take comfort together right now. Teenagers' needs are very different from little kids' needs. We know we have to project competence during the parenting process, keep a clear head, and a good sense of humor.

Here are four tips on raising teens. I hope this advice is working in my own home (you can check back with me in about three years):

Pick your battles. Teens are supposed to push the envelope. Let them, but give them well-defined rules and consequences, and don't worry so much about who seems to be winning the argument. Practice self-awareness and speak logically. Less is more! When you disagree, spend more time listening before delivering the final blow. ("No, you can't come to London with us in October for a weekend. You're supposed to be studying at college!" "No, you can't publish my personal email for profit!" "No, you can't sell the living room furniture on eBay.") 

Respect their privacy. It tugs at your heartstrings when they don't spill everything right away, but give them their space, and let them know you are available when they need you, not when you need them. The most precious and productive moments are when they confide in you on their terms, not yours. Take advantage when they issue last minute requests for transportation shortly after you've sat down to vegetate in front of the tube after running errands all day. ("All my friends are going to the movies. Can I please go, too?") Use car time to share something important. Chances are they will share stories with you because they feel they owe you a favor. Of course, they will never admit it. 

Grow with them. As they mature, you and your teens both have to relate on new terms. There's no manual or prep course for the daily angst. Give yourself permission to make mistakes as they make theirs. Making mistakes is part of life. All perfectionists, please note this old saying: Little kids, little problems. Bigger kids, bigger problems. As their strife gets larger, so will your patience and capacity to love. It's all part of the journey. And it won't resemble anything like your average sitcom. 

Make your home a sanctuary. Your home needs to be a loving, forgiving place where everyone feels safe. They'll bring their friends, and you'll always know where the party is. And never underestimate the power of food. Have a full fridge and let their friends feel comfortable helping themselves. Time spent in the kitchen gathered around a meal is an ancient invitation to share something. Chances are, those meals will be among your greatest opportunities to pass on parental wisdom. 

Parents have an amazing level of responsibility. Do your best to get the family unit to work together. Teens should understand that parents also have goals and gifts to give the world outside the home. If you are fortunate to have a partner, show your teenagers what a good partnership looks like. I believe it's possible for everyone in a family to reach personal satisfaction and remain positive, no matter what planet we may reside on.


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