I have three teenaged stepdaughters and there’s never a dull moment around here. Living with three teenagers creates an emotionally amplified atmosphere for adults, but with emancipation on the horizon and adult responsibilities at short range, teens deserve our compassion and understanding now more than ever. This developmental cycle is one of the most demanding and exciting. Here’s why.
You Aren’t the Boss of Me!
The First Saturn Opposition
14-16 years old
Once while groping to explain one of the veritable truths of life, I unconsciously told my 14-year-old stepdaughter, that one day she would soon understand. She replied, "I hate it when adults say that! Teachers always say that, too. It’s so ... insulting."
I didn’t mean to mock her, but apparently I did. As a step-parent, I’ve learned that it’s important to not take sharp remarks and behaviors personally, because as the adult, I’m the one charged with taking a bigger perspective. Teens need to break away from their parents in order to learn to trust their own authority and our understanding can help them do that without too much pain.
At the Saturn opposition, teens are faced with a dilemma, a confusing amount of rules and restrictions and an impetus to break free and be one’s own person. They may feel as if they are ready to leave home, get their own checking account, decide where they want to go to college but they aren’t ready yet. Try telling this to a teen and you’ll likely be met with a sneer, as symbols of authority are just begging to be challenged. Likewise, teens are formulating their own ‘rule book’ and inner values so teens are sensitive to any hypocrisy in the household. Once abstract concepts of justice become personal and immediate at this time.
I see the three girls work this out within their sisterhood. When they are being held to standards they feel are unfair by the other they don’t hesitate to call a sister out when she isn’t playing by the rules of the household, or honoring their agreements with each other.
There’s great creative potential for teens at this stage, too. As teens deepen their sense of self, they become more capable of intense self-examination. When I was 14, I began writing poetry, alone in my room. Artistic pursuits and hobbies are often done alone at this time, fitting for this solitary planet. If this brings sadness or isolation, with Saturn, everything has a purpose and loneliness serves a purpose, too. When we withdraw into our self alone we make contact with our rich inner images. Making music, poetry, and writing are great forms of self-expression right now. Our teens need our understanding, but this is a difficult time for parents, too. Parents want to maintain their loving bond, while trying to balance their kid’s need for independence with appropriate rule setting. Parents who haven’t yet set boundaries and rules for their kids (and don’t like playing the heavy) will learn the importance of doing so at this time.
Parental warnings and heavy-handed guidance about how to do anything is not the answer, as my stepdaughter reminded me. After all, they may not have invented the wheel or the car, but driving, learning, relationship -- it is all new news to them. This is a testing time when our authority will be challenged.
By being understanding about what our teen is experiencing, we may not be able to avoid playing the bad guy entirely, but we can humbly help them to bloom into who they truly are.