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Teen Talk. Family Dynamics...

Updated on December 16, 2011

Teen Talk - Live

Chris is taking “Teen Talk” on the road. If you are a member of a parent group or responsible for finding engaging speakers for student or youth groups, please contact Chris at

Chris Lincoln MEd
Chris Lincoln MEd

Family Dynamics

While the greatest physical changes occur in the body and brain of the teen, the resultant emotional and social changes impact everyone in their orbit. Simply put, having a teenager in the house alters the family dynamic.

How much change, depends on the family and the individuals concerned. No two families are alike (try going on vacation with another family...), and the numbers of variables are innumerable. This makes giving advice, or simply talking about family dynamics, by necessity, broad and generic. But there are some universals, some tried and tested approaches with positive outcomes, 'best practice', if you will, that are at least a good starting point.

Any group, organization, organism or machine, when placed under stress will fail at its weakest point. A family is no different. The traditional stresses, money issues, death in the family, moving house, changing jobs, illness, and infidelity, are compounded by the teen's impact.

Often, their grasp for independence puts them at odds with the need for all members to pull together, though, in extreme situtions, even the most truculent teen will recognize a crisis and pitch in.

A core issue is that the dynamic "just is". Rarely do families examine what they do. The norm is the norm. "It is simply what we do" is how most families respond to outside questions of why.

Think back to the early years; the first baby, for example. Most people feel super insecure and will constantly check with other people for affirmation that what they are doing is "normal". Every developmental milestone is compared ad-nauseum with any one who will listen. Relatives and friends would offer advice unbidden anyway, and your pediatrician goes from ‘Who?’ To the most important person you know.

Now compare that to the deafening wall of silence when it comes to teenagers… Sure there are books and therapists and websites, but where are the uber-confident friends? The ones touting their teenage wonder kid as the perfect example, secure in the knowledge that they are doing everything absolutely right. OK, ignore the occasional blowhard dad and the super hovering mom, and the field is pretty bare, right?

Parents of teens gather in surreptitious groups, usually as spectators at one of their child's activities, and try to glean information on what might pass for normal with their peers. Again, ignoring the outliers, you realize there is a sort of nebulous normal and that you fit within the parameters, pretty much, well, most of the time, you hope, you think...

Certainty is the first casualty of having a teen growing up in your midst. (Privacy is probably second.)

Not on purpose. Not malicious. Nobody's fault. It is just a fact of life.

In the natural world there are just three options available to deal with a threat or stressor. Move, adapt, or die. Death (of the family) is not an option and moving out is extreme and unhelpful. (Yes, that includes leaving to live with a new boyfriend/girlfriend). So, by logical deduction the only option is adaptation.

This means there needs to be constant change, scary as that can be, and healthy families do better with this than those under stress.

Which leads me to, what exactly defines a healthy family?

First, forget perfect. Perfect is a pipe dream. Be satisfied with doing OK. And, try getting as many family members as possible, doing the following, as often as possible…

Good communications between family members is important, so calm talking and laughter trumps shouting.

More honest is better than less.

Be willing to fix things and make them work.

Be able to forgive and move on.

Be willing to compromise (but hold fast to your core values).

Be sensitive to each other’s feelings.

Be willing to laugh at the stupid stuff.

Don’t take anything too seriously.

Show respect to one another.

Say thank you when you can.

Say, “I love you” often.

Give each other space.

You notice that none of these things are absolutes. There are good reasons for that. You need to be in full 'adaptive' mode, which means reading the situations around you as best you can. Learning from mistakes, and weaving and dancing around matters like a veteran bullfighter. You also need to model this flexibility to your teen, they are far more likely to emulate what you do, over what you say.

It is exhausting, but think about it, you have done this before.

Marriage - you combined two lives into a different entity.

Pregnancy - needed to change a few things there, didn't you?

Baby - you added in the most demanding role of your life.

Teething, sickness, first day of school…the list is long.

So, if you have an actual teenager, you must have done something right to get this far!

And the best overarching advice I can give is, be patient. This too shall pass. For the majority of us, coming out the other side, we recognize so many things we wished perhaps we had done differently, but have a sense of relief (and not a little pride) that we did OK.

Parenting is not for the weak of heart or spirit, and it is generally frowned upon to drop teenagers off at the nearest orphanage :)

Remember they can be incredibly funny, sensitive, artistic, creative and/or athletic in a way you have not seen before. Look for as many positives as you can and relish them. Those memories can more than carry you through the next ‘crisis’…


From some rather heartrending responses to earlier hubs, I know that there are those of you who have to deal with some very sad and serious teen issues, way outside the norms, and my advice comes across as unrealistic and simplistic. If you are in this place, I have only one piece of advice; don't go through this alone. There is a veritable army of professionals ready, willing, and able, to help. It is never a weakness to ask for support, it is a vital tool for the whole family's health and wellbeing. And, yes, your sanity is important...


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    • ChrisLincoln profile image

      ChrisLincoln 6 years ago from Orange (or Lemon...) County, California


      Your greatest challenge has to be playing multiple roles, parent and teacher, and keeping clear definitions of each role. In many ways your situation is unique, but that won't prevent the internal hormonal battle Chelsea will be fighting.

      But love is a very powerful thing...


    • sueroy333 profile image

      Susan Mills 6 years ago from Indiana

      "Certainty is the first casualty of having a teen growing up in your midst."

      I cannot imagine anyone putting it better.

      I'm lucky to have a 13 year old I can laugh with... but I'm being careful not to take that for granted. Hormones are a strange and evil thing.

    • ChrisLincoln profile image

      ChrisLincoln 6 years ago from Orange (or Lemon...) County, California


      Thank you for reading, commenting and the follow. I hope you find something of interest and amusement in this hub series,


    • ChrisLincoln profile image

      ChrisLincoln 6 years ago from Orange (or Lemon...) County, California


      Thank you for being such a faithful reader, and for all the positives you share. I simply cannot get my head around the idea that you have teenage great grandkids...


    • profile image

      mommyloves2write 6 years ago

      I just found this hub and it is spot on! I have three kids-one almost 16 and 8 year old twins. I will have to read the others!

    • Nellieanna profile image

      Nellieanna Hay 6 years ago from TEXAS

      I have teenage great-grandkids. It's amazing to see it from this perspective.

      Your article is so good, Chris. Again - I need my granddaughter to read your articles.

      Thanks, my friend. It is a good practice you have of giving of your experience one day a week in this area.

    • ChrisLincoln profile image

      ChrisLincoln 6 years ago from Orange (or Lemon...) County, California


      After reading your great hub on the kissing tree I think we look at things with a similar eyes - and it really helps to have a good sense of humor. I really appreciate your comments and affirmation, especially coming from someone who is living it right now.


    • sunflowerbucky profile image

      sunflowerbucky 6 years ago from Small Town, USA

      I think a lot of times people often expect the worst out of their teens, and in turn make it a self fulfilling prophecy. I really liked that you said to focus on the positive, notice how innovative, creative and funny teens can be. I recently had 17 12 year olds (boys and girls) at my home for a birthday party. I was shocked and amazed at how much I liked "hanging out" with these kids. It's really fun to watch that metamorphosis from child to young adulthood. I also get a huge kick out of sitting in the middle school parking lot and just watching the way this is when I pick mine up, not a stalking situation! (Well, when I'm not experiencing road rage due to the stupidity of their parents!) Great article, I love your approach and attitude with your parenting advice. One thing I have learned throughout my life is nothing ever goes as planned and if you are willing to sort of roll with the punches, everything is much easier!

    • ChrisLincoln profile image

      ChrisLincoln 6 years ago from Orange (or Lemon...) County, California


      I think men would be much more interested in child rearing if there were some sort of point system!

    • ChrisLincoln profile image

      ChrisLincoln 6 years ago from Orange (or Lemon...) County, California


      Starbucks, eh? When is that hub coming out...


    • profile image

      TeenDad 6 years ago


      Great hub. There is a lot of learning on the job. I don't get it right all the time, but you get points for trying I hope.

    • Lady Wordsmith profile image

      Linda Rawlinson 6 years ago from Lancaster, UK

      I'm sitting in Starbucks again Chris, and I've just had a visit from my mum, and we both agreed that the teenagers that hang out here on a Saturday afternoon are beautiful. We love their energy, and their zeal. 16 is wonderful, and far from judging them, or disapproving of their silliness, we wish for them to have a wonderful time while it lasts. I love this age group too - probably because I wish I was still there!


    • ChrisLincoln profile image

      ChrisLincoln 6 years ago from Orange (or Lemon...) County, California


      And the last thing I want to do is strike fear into people's hearts! I think your approach and attitude will serve you extremely well. Problems occur when people make assumptions or ignore change happening around them.

      I love this age group, which probably makes me certifiable, but their energy and potential are envigorating...

      Thanks, as always for dropping by, and leaving a kind comment,


    • Lady Wordsmith profile image

      Linda Rawlinson 6 years ago from Lancaster, UK

      I'm a little way off having to deal with a teenager yet, my eldest being only 7, but I know that I will blink and he will be 13 before I know what's happened. My plan (ha ha!) is to approach the teenage years as I have approached all of the other stages: with an open mind, patience and excitement (ha ha!). I know things will go wrong, as they have done many times already, but I also know that in so many ways, if I allow him to, my son will exceed even my high expectations.

      As with everything, I look forward to the challenges. Thanks for sharing your wisdom Chris :)