The answer to who is the most important person in your teen's life is more complex than you might think. With a growing need for independence and social skills that are on a much more sophisticated level than younger kids, the teenager's view of who is, or isn't, important might go beyond simply choosing a friend or family member.
While it might seem that your teen thinks of you and other family members as walking wallets or tyrannical rule makers, mom and dad are often at the center of any child's heart. It's common for children to pull away from their parents during the teen years, favoring friends or even siblings over parents. Spending more time with peers doesn't mean that mom or dad are now on the out list. Parents -- in the teen's eyes -- move into a different category of importance, but still remain a central relationship in the adolescent's life.
The most famous of teenage love affairs, Romeo and Juliet, demonstrates the importance of romance during adolescence. While some teens don't date or have casual boy or girlfriends, others might place a higher degree of importance on romantic relationships. It's not uncommon for a teen to forgo other social engagements, cut down on time spent with same-sex friends or brush off family activities for a new romance. Although the high degree of importance that a teen might put on a new love can overwhelm and sometimes even worry a parent, this is typically a normal part of growing up. However, if you notice your teen's partner is controlling, won't let him see his friends or isolates him from his family through verbal abuse or intimidation, it is definitely time to step in.
Socialization with peers is a key part of the teen years. Although school is traditionally a place to learn, your child is meeting new people and forming lasting friendships. While a best friend won't take your place as the parent, this person will become an important part of your child's life. The play dates and sleepovers of your child's early years might transform into road trips or 24-7 phone or text conversations. The high degree of importance that a teen places on her friendships is often seen by ranking spending time with a friend above family activities, dressing like a friend or picking up some of the likes and dislikes of another adolescent.
As your child enters the teen years, you might find she is putting a higher degree of importance on adults other than yourself. Other adults that might begin to factor into your child's daily life include teachers, sports coaches, employers or family members such as an aunt, uncle or grandparent. These adults might act as mentors to your child, giving them a more grown-up sense of socialization or supporting the teen in an effort to reach her goals.
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