FAMILY MATTERS: Open eyes and mind to teen’s ascent to adulthood – Eagle-Tribune

Dear Doctor,

I know teenagers are supposed to be going through a lot, but our son has changed into a different person. He argues with us over just about everything we ask him to do. He is always out with his friends. He has told us he will be glad when he goes away to college and is away from us. Is this normal, and what should we do?


Dear Puzzled,

Sit down, take a few deep breaths and admit he is indeed changing. He is slowly, but definitely morphing into an adult. The journey will take time and, frankly, you will also be very happy when he goes away to school.

Let me review what I see as the major tasks of the mid- to late-teen years.

First, teens work on achieving independence. This is the eventual separation from parents. The process is unconscious and often stormy, but it will happen. You and your son will develop a new relationship.

Second, teens work on developing a moral compass. They approach moral choices with strong opinions. Over time, they come to see moral choices in their complexity, not so much black and white as gray.

Third, identity of sexual roles and behavior is very complex, often nurtured in silence and guilt. What is it like to be a man? What is the role of a woman? What if ones sexual partners differ from the norm?

Fourth, identification of life roles is a journey. What is my vocation? How do I make a meaningful path in my life? Do I want to be a father or mother? Do I wish to have a family?

This will give you a rough idea of what your son is experiencing. Be there for him. Do not hesitate to let him know how much you love him and care. He is becoming a man before your very eyes.

Dr. Larry Larsen is an Andover psychologist. If you would like to ask a question, or respond to one, email him at

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FAMILY MATTERS: Open eyes and mind to teen's ascent to adulthood - Eagle-Tribune

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