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The Part Teenagers Play

Many couples are finding the challenge of parenting teens to be impacting their marriage. They find they have less time to be sexually intimate with one another, they find they are more often at odds with one another on enforcing family rules, they feel as if they spend their entire day taking kids here and there or worrying about when they will get home. Juggling work and marriage and kids creates stress. Add into this mix a pair of aging parents to be concerned about, additional financial pressures about upcoming college costs and retirement plans, and you could have a marriage on the brink of divorce.

A family in crisis was portrayed in the movie, American Beauty. Although most families aren't dealing with that much dysfunction in their lives, having teens around is a challenge for many.

We've launched four children into adulthood. I remember the moving out day for each one. It was hard. It's never easy. However, I can also remember the joy of raising teens. We thoroughly enjoyed having them around. Our marriage was enriched by these vibrant, entertaining, creative young people and their friends.

Tips to having a healthy marriage and happy teens at the same time:
  • Enjoy your teens. Get to know who they are. Appreciate their talents and interests. Respect them.
  • Share your hopes and dreams with one another and with your teens. Ask them to share their visions for their future with you.
  • Accept that you are dealing with a lot of stressful dynamics all at once by having teens, parents in midlife, and possibly aging grandparents in your family at the same time.
  • Recognize your own needs and what stresses the two of you are coping with. If you are feeling the pinch of all your responsibilities, take that into consideration as you make plans for your future together.
  • Don't take your adolescent's moods and identity crises personally. It's all part of growing into a mature adult. Your teens are probably quite typical.
  • You gave them roots, now it's time to give them wings. Let go. You will discover they can be your friends.
  • Parent together. Deal with problems together. Don't try to hide things about your kids from one another.
  • Know how to effectively deal with conflict. Fight fair with your teens. Don't bring up their past and don't embarrass them.
  • Keep lines of communication open. Sharing expectations each evening for the next day can make the day much less stressful. Keep touching base with one another and with your teens. If it is a daily routine thing that they've grown up with, then the kids won't feel as if you are intruding on their lives when they are teens.
  • Keep your sense of humor. This is a must!
  • Know which battles are worth fighting over - both with your spouse and with your teen. Does it really matter how much hair spray is used or if they've changed their hair color four times in the past month?
  • Make time for one another. The two of you should go out on a date every week. Work on your marriage relationship by holding hands and pinching one another on a regular basis. It's ok to get caught, too! Seeing the two of you being romantic helps teens learn about how to make a marriage be happy and long lasting.
  • Prepare now for the empty nest phase of your marriage.

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