When adolescence ends, your child can see beyond the mask he's projected onto you. Six tips for making a smooth transition ANTHONY E. WOLF When it happens, you won't know what hit you. "You know, I was thinking. You've been a pretty good mother." "What?" "Yeah, I mean there's stuff about you that still drives me crazy, but I was thinking how you really are a very good person. I've been lucky to have you as a mom." "What?" "Yeah, you've really put up with a lot of stuff from me. And it's not just that. The way you talk to other people. I can see how you're really respectful, even with people who maybe you don't actually like. I really admire that. I hope I can be somebody like you as an adult." "What?" "Why do you keep saying 'what'? Are you some kind of parrot?" "Noah, are you you?" When adolescence finally ends, it can seem like a miracle. Your child mysteriously becomes nice as he begins his adult life. And, particularly jarring, he starts seeing you for who you really are. During the throes of their adolescence, most children don't actually see their parents - they only see the role they are projecting onto you, and they seem unable to get past it. "Hello, I'm a person." "No, you're not. You're my mom." They have the teenage allergy: Their feelings of attachment and dependency toward you are in direct conflict with their need to feel more adult. Your mere existence makes them feel like a little kid, totally compromises their independence. Everything about you is aggravating: "Can't she leave me alone? Does she really have to speak to me? What is she doing? She's giving me orders. Omigod." But adolescence - and your kids' allergy to you - does end. It typically happens at the end of high school, when your deal with them dramatically changes. (Kid: You can't boss me around any more. Parent: I am no longer obligated to support you.) Just as important, your child has become more emotionally independent. And suddenly, the mask that they have projected onto you is removed, and - voilà! - there you are. You are no longer aggravating. They see the real you, the one they've been unable to see for the past four or five years. What does this mean? For one thing, your child will probably be more pleasant to deal with. But perhaps more than anything, this is the time when your chickens come home to roost. Usually they are good chickens. What you have sown, you will reap. If you are basically a nice person and you have been an overall loving and supportive parent, he will recognize it. The newly adult person now gets into an adult relationship with the adult you. All the good stuff you have been doing finally gets its reward, its recognition. But it is not always good. Sometimes the acrimony between you was too great, too constant; the bitterness built up and carried over into your adult relationship. Sometimes this thaws over time. But sometimes it does not. There are things you can do to give yourself the best chance of a harmonious adult relationship. First, be aware that what you do with them during their teenage years does make an impression. They do notice. Yes, sometimes during their adolescence you will be the villain - this is unavoidable unless you always say yes, which is not recommended. At times they may be dishonest, manipulative or downright nasty. Sometimes you will lose it with them - it's an inevitable part of parenting teens. But through it all you still want to act as a good person: 1) Try to be honest with them. 2) Don't always complain about how hard it is for you, and how much they make you suffer. 3) Take responsibility for your own actions - if you act unpleasantly, don't make excuses. 4) Don't belittle them. 5) Try sometimes to listen, or even just to shut up. Don't always criticize, make personality corrections, give instructions. Don't be a total know-it-all. 6) At times you will fail. That's okay. But above all - and this is the one condition that they most care about, that will be the truest foundation of a strong adult relationship - be there for them. They may screw up. They may drive you crazy. They may suffer the consequences of their actions. But they are forever redeemed: Your love and your support are always there. Is it possible to speed up the end of adolescence? No. There is nothing you can do to change or hurry it. But it does end, and that is almost always good news. Clinical psychologist Anthony E. Wolf is the author of six parenting books, including Get out of my life, but first could you drive me and Cheryl to the mall?: A Parent's Guide to the New Teenager. source: Toronto Globe and Mail