Prevention Plus: Parenting your emerging adolescent — help is on the way!

The elementary school years were wonderful despite the rough spots, you say. We enjoyed family time together, and our child generally behaved respectfully and responsibly, especially when reminded. But once she entered middle school, she turned into a monster. What happened to our lovely child?

Parenting an adolescent is not for the faint of heart. Hormones rage and emotions become volatile, making your child feel and want to act like an adult. Unfortunately, his brain development, especially the part that controls impulsivity and judgment, is lagging his bodily development. And there is a world of temptation out there — mind-altering alcohol and drugs, Internet porn, addictive video games, the potential for romantic relationships and hookups, parties and cars — thrusting you into the role of policeman (or, in your child’s eyes, prison guard). The inevitable tension this creates, in addition to making both your lives miserable, can rupture the basic bond between parent and child.

The quintessential parenting challenge of this period is simultaneously maintaining limits and connection. The earlier and more effectively we establish both, the more likely we are to be able to sustain them during this turbulent period. Often we know what do do, but have a difficult time regulating our own emotions when our child pushes our buttons.

Since 2005, the Ridgefield Community Coalition Against Substance Abuse (RCCASA) has been offering Parent Circles, facilitated discussion groups for parents of adolescents who are struggling with these issues. For more information, contact Doug Barile LMFT at or join a circle via the Ridgefield Library website, (search Parent Circles).

Doug Barile is a licensed marriage and family therapist who lives and practices in Ridgefield and coordinates the Parent Circle Programs for RCCASA.