The shape-shifting teen

By Mansi Poddar

July 2014

Stuck between adulthood and childhood, the teenager is uncomfortable and confused as he struggles for an identity and independence. Mansi Poddar guides parents on how to deal with this most difficult of entities



In my psychotherapy practice, I am besieged by parents of teenagers.

Sweta, mother of a 15-year-old, claims, “She doesn’t love me anymore. The hardest part is the lack of love. She was unable to live without me. It was mama, mama, all day long, but now? I don’t even know if I matter.”

Sunaina and Rakesh, parents of 17-year-old twins, say, “We can’t control them. They don’t listen to us. They are indisciplined. It’s sucking the life out of us; we feel like failures. We are scared they will be like this forever.”

Hear Marian, mother of a 19-year-old, “My kid  won’t make friends, she only wants to be with me; how will she live like this?  One day I will be gone. I can’t stop worrying.”

These are common sentiments for parents of teens to express. Chances are, you are reading this article because you are either handing a teen, or preparing to do so. With advances in neuroscience, we now have insight into the teen brain. What makes them be rude to us? Why don’t they understand rules and limits? Why are teens so judgmental or idealistic? Will they always be like this?

Adolescence is the last stage of child development before adulthood (yes, it’s a stage!). During this stage the child faces various challenges and struggles. There are three major themes all teens face and parents struggle. These are:


“I can do it.” There is a conflict within the child regarding becoming independent. It is both thrilling and scary. During stress, they regress to their childhood patterns of relating and other times, withdrawing from the family. This leaves many parents feeling confused and out of control. Teens try to express their independence by wanting to be with friends, make their own decisions, and have a say in their lives.

Involving teens in money matters, health issues, or giving them charge of their younger siblings, will teach them the value of self-reliance and inter-dependence (we are responsible
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