It sometimes seems that parents and teenagers live in completely different worlds. A teen's world is often made of dreams rather than realities. The teens' world revolves around the hopes, fears, and dreams of what life will be like as they become independent, develop close peer relationships, choose a career, and "live happily ever after". For teenagers, the teen years are a time of excitement, change and unlimited possibilities. Their whole life is before them, and they can dream about what it will be like. These dreams can all be true at once in their fantasies, but at the present time they are not yet realities. This lack of fulfillment can bring on a painful sense of insecurity, inferiority and lack of identity.

Since teenagers have not had much experience in testing dreams against reality, many of their hopes and dreams may seem crazy to their parents, who are busy with the realities and practical requirements of daily life. Their world revolves around family responsibilities, jobs, and finances, as well as trying to meet their individual needs. Parents of teenagers are also dealing with the stresses of midlife. They may have come to the painful realization that there are now more realities than dreams in their lives, and many of those realities have not lived up to their dreams or expectations.

There are other basic differences between how parents and teenagers perceive their worlds. In their efforts to establish their independence and develop close peer relationships, teens place much importance on being different from parents, and tend to identify strongly with their peers. Parents can feel frustrated and rejected by their teens apparent withdrawal and changes in values.

These differences in perspectives often makes it very difficult for both parents and teens to imagine themselves in the other's world, and often contributes to conflicts between them. It may be helpful for both parents and teenagers to be aware of the differences in their perspectives as well as to keep in mind some of the things that they have in common between their worlds.

Teenagers and parents are both human beings with similar human emotions and needs. Both need to feel good about themselves and to have satisfying relationships with other people. But most importantly, teenagers and their parents both have the common goal of the teenager ultimately becoming an independent, happy adult.

For more information, comments or questions, please call the Trinity Adolescent Program at (515) 574-6596.

This article was written by Pam Lehman, a counselor with the Trinity Recovery Center at Trinity Regional Hospital. Pam has a Master of Science degree in counseling.