Oxytocin is the chemical in the teenage brain that creates the good feelings she gets from being in love, making best friends, and being part of a group. It also can create the “us vs. them” feelings where parents and other adults are the “them.”
What can you do about it? Research has shown that families who eat dinner together have higher levels of oxytocin, and teens who eat dinner with the family show reduced signs of stressed behavior. That’s something simple you can do.
What else can you do? Well, if you have done your job well up to this point, it should all come together during adolescence. Your time and effort should be paying off compared to the children of your friends, who may not have been so involved. Regardless, your teen needs a framework to operate within. He needs room to experiment, but he has to have solid boundaries. If you are too confining, you will activate his territoriality and get rejection. If you are too permissive, he may hurt himself.
Use a light, guiding hand, enforcing rules and consequences, but give him input on the rules and review them every six months or so. As he gets older, permissible actions may change, and he will understand that if you do not agree to something today, you will re-negotiate six months from now, which gives him hope.
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