Why Don't I Get Along with My Teenager?

Sometimes it's difficult to get along with teenage children because we're not able to see that we must also modify our own roles. Learn more.
Why Don't I Get Along with My Teenager?
Maria Fátima Seppi Vinuales

Written and verified by the psychologist Maria Fátima Seppi Vinuales.

Last update: 16 December, 2022

Uncertainty, helplessness, anger, doubts. These are some of the emotions that many parents reveal in consultations when describing how they feel because they can’t get along with their teenagers.

Adolescence can be a disconcerting period if we try to look at it with the same eyes with which we view a 6 or 8-year-old. It’s like trying to force certain practices or customs to fit the way they used to. It would be like trying to communicate with a person from another country without making an attempt to understand their language. Dealing with this stage of youth requires new strategies and new eyes. Let’s see what the difficulties that prevent you from understanding your teenager are. Keep reading!

Why don’t I understand my teenager?

Like all stages of life, adolescence has its own characteristics and challenges. That little one that was a child just yesterday is now a young man or woman who makes excuses, closes the door of their room, and seeks privacy. In addition, they now have other role models and seek refuge in their peer group. For adults, this implies a whole change that sometimes we don’t know how to cope with, which leads us to feel disconnected from our adolescent children. It’s as if they’re living in a world we can’t access.

It’s often difficult to get along with adolescent children because the adult refuses to adapt and seeks to repeat the methods used in the past in a present that’s very different. However, it’s a matter of learning to adapt to this change and to give new, different, and even creative answers. For example, if you want to know something, you can talk to the young person instead of interrogating or questioning them.

This adolescent wants to detach themself from the role of a child, so they need to build their identity and seek to differentiate themself. This means that they´re likely to distance themself somewhat, set new limits, and be more confrontational.

A teenage boy with a ring in his lip.
Teenagers are in a stage of searching for their own identity, so it’s common for them to try to differentiate themselves and challenge authority.

Strategies to understand and get along with your teenager

Some recommendations to help you understand your teenager are the following:

Find a balance between asking and invading

Although you may not realize it, you may ask questions, cross-examine, and not give enough space for your teen to come up to you and tell you things spontaneously, as well as their concerns. Also, sometimes we do it at inopportune moments, such as in front of other people. It’s important to facilitate spaces for dialogue and to let them know that you’re present when they need it. Of course, we mustn’t confuse their search for independence with total abandonment, nor protection with overprotection. It’s important to learn to walk alongside them and intervene as responsible adults.

Learns to listen and get to know their world

Avoid those “when I was your age…” phrases. If you want to share your experience, it should be from a place of learning that allows the young person to understand that you also had doubts. It’s better not to position yourself as a know-it-all, but to be open and willing to learn from the new generations.

Empathize with their emotions and concerns

The search for identity has its ups and downs. At times, it seems that the child can devour the world and, at other times, they feel like they’re useless. It’s a process with emotional ups and downs and mood swings that will often keep you on edge. There will even be situations or requests that will seem unusual to you, that may not seem very important in your eyes, but that are crucial in theirs. You have to learn to understand and accompany them without overlooking situations that require setting limits, such as yelling or abuse.

It’s important to be able to empathize with the emotions and concerns of adolescents. To do so, it’s key to open spaces for dialogue instead of judging them beforehand.

Create new rules

As we pointed out, you’re no longer dealing with a child, but with a full-fledged adolescent. Therefore, you must set new rules and allow certain permissions and activities. This doesn’t mean that you have to leave everything up to them, but you do need to be flexible and clear about what’s allowed and what isn’t. For example, it’s logical for them to want to spend more time with friends and to get out of the house more often. On these occasions, we must accompany their interests and desires, but try to strike a balance.

Don’t take their criticism personally

At this stage of your child’s life, it’s important not to take their criticism personally. It’s not something against us, but the idea of authority and the possibility of challenging it to see what happens. So, instead of getting angry or reacting, you can take the opportunity to help your child reflect on what they want, on their ideas, and on their positions, among other issues.

Learn to lower your defenses

Finally, to understand adolescence, it’s also important to reflect internally. This means thinking about ourselves, accepting change, and not projecting our own stories onto the life of our adolescent children. Sometimes, we find it hard to admit that we’re afraid and that we don’t want to lose the leading role in our children’s lives. Sometimes, in an attempt to get attention or in fear of losing control of the situation, we become inflexible and even capricious in our behaviors and arguments.

In this regard, it’s best to be able to accept that all of these emotions are valid. After all, this is your child and they’re important to you. At the same time, it’s important to allow them to go out into the world and learn to fly with your full support.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Luna, N. C., & Molero, D. (2013). Revisión teórica sobre el autoconcepto y su importancia en la adolescencia. Revista electrónica de investigación y docencia (REID), (10).
  • Lillo Espinosa, J. L. (2004). Crecimiento y comportamiento en la adolescencia. Revista de la Asociación Española de Neuropsiquiatría, (90), 57-71.
  • ADOLESCENCIA, L. (2003). Adolescencia y salud. Papeles del psicólogo23(84), 84.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.