Traumatic Transitions

Dear Dr. Darcy:

I am the parent of twin 14-year-old daughters.  In early July, I sent them off to camp for 4 weeks.  When I picked them up this weekend, my sweet daughters were replaced by teenagers who don’t want to have anything to do with me.  They don’t look at me when I speak to them, they don’t want to spend time with me and, according to them, they are now accustomed to parenting themselves and no longer require parenting.  I’m beyond overwhelmed right now.  I knew the terrible teen years were just a heartbeat away but I expected the transition to be more subtle.  Is my work as a parent truly done?

ANSWER

Fasten your seat belt.  Your work as a parent has just begun.

Your daughters’ transition from pre-teen to adolescence probably happened more gradually but with a month of 24/7 peer-to-peer influence at camp, it looked more sudden.  Nonetheless, your work here is hardly done.

The way you parent needs to change as the children progress through each stage of development.  And despite the rumors of how awful teenage years can be, if you put in the hard work between the ages of 0-5, you should be in good shape.  Don’t allow your fears to create a self-fulfilling prophecy.  Your daughters need you to parent from a place of calm leadership and I’m going to tell you how to do just that.

Speak to each one separately and put the following quote into your own words (without changing the content).  Be sure to ask each of them to look at you while you’re speaking.

“Now that you’re getting older, I want to give you opportunities to earn more privileges.  Starting next week, I’m going to put together a list of 5 chores you can do throughout the week to earn extra money and extra privileges.”

Here’s how to make that list:  Determine the average amount of money you give each of them per week.  For each daughter, take the dollar amount and divide it by 5, which is the number of chores that they’ll each be offered per week.  Come up with 5 simple chores for each of them.  The chores shouldn’t take more than 15 minutes to complete.  Offer a bonus for completing 4 out of 5 chores per week, and a bigger bonus for completing 5 out of 5 chores per week.  Consider tacking an extra half hour onto one night’s curfew as each bonus.  Do NOT give either daughter a cent that they haven’t earned.  This is an extremely important lesson for you and for them to learn.  If you offer this privilege opportunity to them and you don’t adhere to the rules that you set forth, you’ll be writing me questions every month for the next 4 years, and I begin charging for my time after answering the first question…

This list will begin a structure at home that will garner you both respect and cooperation from your daughters.  And you’ll accomplish this without getting sucked into the bottomless pit called the parent-teen tug of war.  Good luck.

Writer's Stats: Female, Heterosexual.