Before I start my post I am going to preface it: what I am writing about today is based on a mainly hypothetical conversation that I had with two neighbors while we were doing laundry. Both of these women have 13 year old daughters and they somehow oddly thought I might have some words of wisdom regarding teenage girls and raising them. After I stopped laughing at the thought of any parent ever knowing anything, we had a discussion around this topic– while there is an example of a situation, this was more conversational than actual
The laundry room is like the water cooler of an apartment building. We run into each other and have long conversations about pretty much everything. When I run into these particular women, the talk often turns to how did I like the schools my daughter attended (remember we have school choice here- especially after elementary) On this particular occasion, the subject was girls as they enter the teen years.
How do you know the difference between a teen who is spoiled, a kid who is acting out as part of the normal growth process, and a kid that is having a real issue?
Teenage children act out. They rebel against their parents. I know we don’t want to hear this, but a certain amount of rebellion is normal and healthy. During the teen years we know that kids are trying to find their place in the world apart from their parents. Rebelling against parents is the safest form of rebellion- they are secure enough in the love of the parents that they know they have this cushion. Doesn’t make it easy to live through, but there you go.
Now, some kids rebel way less than others. I can’t tell you why some kids are more hellish than others during this time period.
But how do we know what’s good rebellion, and what sort of rebellion causes trouble?
I have no idea.
And I told this to my neighbors. My guess if is something is self destructive, or destructive to others, you might need to sit down with the pediatrician and ask for a next step.
But do we really ever know what is normal and what is a cry for help?
My neighbor brought up a particular situation: her niece had all of a sudden become a vocal advocate against date rape and other forms of sexual aggression towards young women. She asked me, how do you know if this is a normal protest against something that has been in the news lately, or what if she, or one of her friends has been victimized? Do you ask and risk the kid shutting down? Do you watch to see if any other behaviors are off?
I shook my head: these were questions I’d often thought of myself. When I would see a girl at school I wonder if they are anorexic, or maybe taking drugs, but at what point do you say something? Is it worth stirring the pot?
While we are all supposed to watch out for one another, in practice, how do we actually do it?
As an outside we may be looking at things from a different light- sometimes being close to a situation can be blurry. Sometimes an outsider can have clarity.
When do we butt in? When do we butt out?
When “normal” can be pretty obnoxious, how do we ascertain a cry for help?