Leave Me Alone! I Can Manage My Own Stuff!

Shocked and upset, I was standing in the hallway of our apartment, staring at a closed door. Not some stranger’s daughter – my own daughter’s door. I was me, whom she was addressing the moment before.

This was a turning point in our relationship – something that prompted a whole avalanche of thoughts and ideas on my part. Now, I am a mom and a doctor, and in both of these capacities, I will try to share these thoughts with you.

My name is Svetlana Kogan. I am an Internal Medicine physician with 17 years of clinical experience under my belt. But I am also a mom to two great kids: a 14-year old girl and a 5-year old boy. My children are growing up in a loving and caring family. Both parents are working. Kids are going to school. You know, a common scenario for a lot of folks out there.

I often find myself in a company of friends, where after a dinner and a glass of wine the conversation heats up around our adolescent children. Folks get emotional and start confiding in one another:

“Who would have known that a nice child like that could use my credit card for those tattoos?”

“Oh, you cannot even imagine how my son has changed lately. It’s almost as if he has been replaced by another boy!”

“It’s hard to believe that my daughter and I were such awesome friends up until recently. Now, it feels like we are just two strangers who don’t understand each other!”

“How dare he be so rude to me?”

“She just bangs the door closed right in front of my nose. So cruel…”

“Is that how we were bringing them up to be like?”

“What is my fault in all of this?”

All of these exclamations must sound very familiar to you: moms and dads, grandmas and grandpas.

There are different cultural and ethnic contexts and different stories but they are all revolving around the same “unruly kids”.

Here they are laid out on the table – their photos: crawling around the house in diapers, proudly using their portable potty, making their first Mother’s day present, emerging from their first swimming lessons, sporting their first backpack for Pre-K…

What happened? Where did we go wrong? How did these obedient and cheerful munchkins who used to hang onto every word you said, have grown up to be so…independent and uncontrollable? Who taught your daughters to roll her eyes up and grimace: OMG, you just don’t understand, mom! Where did your award-winning daddy’s boy learn how to shut himself in his room until midnight, surrounded by multiple electronic devices, oblivious to the fact that his dad would like to hang out with him?

And even those parents, who do not seem to have open confrontations with their adolescents, frequently notice how they are staring to pierce various parts of their body, wearing headphones at the diner table, or not showing up to the dinner table at all.

I have two kinds of news for you: A good one and a bad one. Which one would you like me to start with?

Well, I am an optimist so lets start with a good one: It’s not your fault that your teen is behaving like that.

The bad news?

         It is human physiology and every single one of our children will have to go through this difficult developmental stage.

My profession allows me to dig a little deeper into the field of neuroscience, where I can find some of the answers to these questions, and can share them with you. So, my follow-up post next week will focus on what exactly happens with teenagers’ brains during this challenging developmental time called adolescence.