Many times I hear parents ask for help because there teenagers are too self-absorbed. All they do is think about what they want and what they need. Well, teenagers are supposed to be self-absorbed. Okay yes some teenagers can go overboard, but in general being self-absorbed is part of being a teenager.

Developmentally, teenagers are in the process of defining their own identities and discovering their own value systems. They are trying to define themselves as young adults and how they are going to relate to people in their lives and what they do and don’t believe in. In order to accomplish this goal, it does require a fair amount of self-reflection and exploring the world. It also requires a great deal of focus on their feeling so they can form their identities and value systems. At times, it may seem like a teenager is self-absorbed and only thinking about themselves. Externally this is how it may look to parents, but internally it feels very different to the teenager.

Remember when you were a teenager or some of the things your teenager may have said to you. Teens often talk about feeling very confused about their emotions or overwhelmed by their emotions. They often state they are not sure what to feel or think about their emotions. Also many teens often express feeling overwhelmed by what is happening in the world and are not sure what they should do as an adult or what people expect from them. It is a very confusing time and requires a fair amount of introspection from the teenager.

Very often in therapy, I serve as a sounding board for teens to sort out the feelings they are having about themselves and the expectations they feel from people in their lives. Also they often are trying to sort out how they want to act as an adult and they are trying to understand what is expected of them as an adult.

This is a very confusing time and requires a great deal of introspection because no one teaches teenagers about what it takes to be an adult and often no one discusses these issues with them. Some parents do try to discuss feeling and expectations with teenagers, but often these conversations result in an argument. Remember a teenager’s brain is still not fully developed. The prefrontal cortex which handles most of what we are discussing is still developing in a teenager. Because of this many teens may feel like they are being talked down to and they get angry. Parents often forget how teenagers think and don’t know how to approach their teenager which can result in an argument. Even though the parent and teen may have the best intention of trying to discuss this turmoil it still can result in an argument.

As I said in the beginning some teenagers are too self-absorbed. They are not trying to resolve emotional turmoil they are just selfish or spoiled. If your teenager appears more self-absorbed than they average teenager or if people are commenting on how selfish your teenager is then you need help. At this point I recommend therapy. The teenager won’t listen to you because parents know nothing in their opinion. Often in therapy I say the same things as parents and the teen will listen because I am not Dad or Mom and they don’t feel like they are admitting they are inadequate accepting my suggestion. The main point is they understand they are too self-absorbed and how to change it.

So if your teen is somewhat self-absorbed, relax it is part of being a teenager. They will out grow it around 17 or 18 years old. In the meantime, work with your teen doing your best to help them sort out the emotional turmoil they are experiencing internally. If you feel lost as a parent or if you see your teenager struggling very hard then you may want to consider having your teenager attend therapy to cope with this emotional turmoil.

Dr. Michael Rubino has over 18 years experience working with teens and parents and is recognized as an expert in this area. For more information regarding Dr. Rubino’s work and private practice visit his website at http://www.rcs-ca.com

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