A few years ago, birthday parties consisted of pointy hats, cheap pin the tail pinups, invitations, and cakes in the shape of Dora the Explorer and her pal Boots. On a good year, there might be an actual piñata. I can still remember Chan’s excitement as she opened the Hannah Montana karaoke gear complete with headset, costume and some form of bedazzled microphone. Now turning 15, my teen is interested in having a very small party with a few friends going out to dinner. This year her mom will take her and three friends to dinner, the bowling alley, and the movie theater. Miley Cyrus gear has been replaced by itunes cards and gift cards to her favorite stores.
For adults and kids, tastes and interests certainly do change over time. But for young people, it seems that each week can bring about drastically different likes and dislikes. The move from childhood to preteen to teen is marked with big shifts and the ever increasing effort on the part of my child to individuate herself from me and her mom. Teens staking themselves out on issues, taking on opinions different from parents, and shifting likes and dislikes in order to fit in with social teen norms is all part of a normal process. Watching from birthday to birthday, the changes seem even more dramatic. For some teens, the shifts are significant and dangerous with the exploration of drugs, alcohol and other destructive forces. But for most teens this process will “only” involve some turmoil, attitudes, and argument. Parents must remain vigilant and patient through the shifts, changes, and corrections. Now I am wondering what fun my teen’s 16th birthday will bring a year from now.
How do you handle your teen’s desire to individuate?