Pay attention. That should be your official role as a parent of a teen. I understand it's a lot, but someone has to do it and that someone has to be you. You not only need to watch for and be aware of the normal roller-coaster ride of adolescence you and your teen are on, but also need to be alert for problems that can veer that ride off track. You are now i the smoke-catching business, or, to put it another way, you are your family's smoke detector.
Have you ever burned the bread toasting in the oven or failed to open enough windows when cooking on the kitchen grill? Sure enough, that annoying loud scream of the smoke detector will go off, causing general upset and ear discomfort. In a rush, you dive to open as many windows as you can, along with the front door, in order to make the stupid thing shut up. That's going to be you for a while - the annoyingly vital yet irritating thing your teen wishes would just shut up. At least, he or she wil seem to want that on the surface, but don't take offense; you're just doing your job.
Your job is to pay attention for smoke and alert people when it's time to investigate and make changes. It might even be your job to alert your teen and the rest of your family to more than smoke - to a real fire. In the chaos and pain that follow, you might even feel to blame because you're the one who sounded the alarm. Take heart; no one ever went back into a burned house and busted up the smoke detector that saved the lives of his or her family. I promise you, it will be worth it. You may just need to wait awhile to hear "thank you."
So go ahead and be like a fly on the ceiling - or like a smoke detector on the ceiling - quietly monitoring the situation in your house and in your teen, ready to raise an alarm when conditions warrant.
The above is excerpted from Chapter 7 of my new book, The Stranger in Your House. I'll be posting more excerpts from it here in the weeks to come, but you can receive a FREE copy of the book itself between now and December 15, 2011. To participate in this book giveaway, simply share some of your own thoughts or experiences about raising teenagers - in the comments section of this or future blog posts about the book.