by Dr. William B. Knippa
My teenage daughter is difficult to get ready for school in the morning. I find myself becoming really stressed and irritable. What can I do?
Your voice joins the not-so-pleasant chorus of many parents of teens who know firsthand that mornings can be stressful.
It helps to look at the peculiar developmental aspects of teens. Adolescence is marked by accelerated physical growth, which drains much-needed energy. As a result, teens need more time to “recharge”— at least nine to nine-and-a-half hours of sleep nightly (especially if s/he tends to be a night owl). Most don’t get that, which results in morning fatigue. Add to the mix the probability that your daughter — like every teenager — wants greater independence, and you have the recipe for very long mornings. What to do?
It is vital to have a plan. Here are some suggestions. Arrange to talk with your daughter about how each of you is experiencing school-day mornings: you are “stressed and irritable,” and she probably feels hassled. Let her know you realize it’s normal to be tired and not excited about getting ready for school. But also be clear that it is not okay to be disrespectful or disobedient. Assert firmly and lovingly that things need to change. This may include a compromise about “lights out”; scheduling your morning (when to get up, when to be at breakfast, when to be out the door for school), and establishing negative consequences for not conforming, and positive consequences when she does; letting her sleep late on Saturdays; and, if you’re married, enlisting the support of your spouse to reinforce these changes and their consequences.
It is also important for you to acknowledge, praise, and reinforce your daughter’s positive behaviors in other areas of her life. Your prayers for her continued growth in the love, grace, and truth of Jesus Christ will be a source of deep blessing—although it may not appear that way on school-day mornings. Finally, entrust your thoughts, feelings, frustrations, and joys to the Lord. Stay in touch with other parents of teens, and remain faithful in worship for ongoing support and strength. Remember that in your task of child-rearing, “your labor is not in vain” (1 Cor. 15:58).
Questions for “Family Counselor” come from readers and, after steps are taken to assure confidentiality, from contacts made with Lutheran Hour Ministries. Send your questions to “Family Counselor,” The Lutheran Witness, 1333 S. Kirkwood Road, St. Louis, MO 63122-7295. Please include your name and address.