You've devoted more than a decade to raising your children, investing untold time and energy. You've warned them about drugs and alcohol, and explained not only the facts of life but also the facts of love. You've watched their soccer games and driven them to dances. You've curbed your own behavior to set a good example for them. By all rights, adolescence should be the time when you begin to see the rewards of your efforts.
But just when your kids give every impression of being well on the way to productive adulthood, they pitch you a curve ball. You catch your golden girl, now 13, sneaking out her window after curfew to meet that scruffy-looking boy with all the piercings and tattoos. Your incurably adventurous little Huck Finn has, at 14, discovered a grown-up kind of mischief, as evidenced by the drug paraphernalia in his room. You thought you'd be basking in the glow of a job well done; instead, you're feeling betrayed, confused and, above all, disappointed.
The reality, though, is that some fate-tempting behavior is developmentally appropriate. Teens discover what they really think and often try to take charge of their lives by defying or sidestepping our rules and values. "If you think your teen is perfect, either she's hiding her activities because she knows they're wrong and she'll be punished -- or you're in deep denial," says Brad Sachs, PhD, author of The Good Enough Teen (HarperCollins). So forget the where-did-I-go-wrongs and the grounded-for-life sentences. Stuff happens. It may even strike you as amusing one day. For now, here are eight situations that may challenge your unsuspecting household, with strategies to help you cope.