Raising Teenagers-Part 1: Welcome to the Teens
One day you wake up and your sweet little cherub is a moody, hormonal, complex person that you don’t recognize. Some of my friends have described their years as parenting teens as horrible. I am not sure if it’s horrible for me, but it’s definitely like navigating unchartered territory.
Welcome to the teen years!
What in the world just happened? Yesterday, they wanted you around and needed you, and now they want space and independence. It’s a fine line that we walk as parents of teens, especially in today’s world where bullying can be present in so many different forms. The prevalence of social media has made it really easy to blast someone publicly, and unfortunately, once it’s in cyberspace, it’s out there permanently.
I’ve often said that I feel like my teenagers probably need me even more than my toddlers do. (Yep, I’m that mom…teens and toddlers!) It’s a different kind of neediness, though. Like the toddler who is learning to walk and do some things for himself, a teenager is learning to chart her own course in life, within the safe boundaries of the family.
She’s learning what’s thought to be acceptable socially, how to express herself in different ways, who she wants to hang around with, where does she fit in, where does she not fit in, and does she even want to. Just like the toddler stumbling around trying to find his footing when learning to walk, your teen is doing the same, but on a whole other level.
This is part one in my blog series of parenting teenagers, specifically girls, and what I’ve learned so far, and what I’m still discovering every day. Teenagers today live in a world that’s so completely different that the one we grew up in. We did things then that were risky, but it seems to me that the things we did then have much more dangerous consequences now.
So how do you do this as a parent? How do you learn to begin to let go of the reigns a bit and allow your teen some freedom to discover the kind of person they want to be, knowing all of the dangers out there? These are some of the things we’ll be discussing in this series, so stay tuned and feel free to email me your experiences, or if you just need some solidarity. Like I always say, parenting is hard, man. You need friends who get that and believe me, I totally get that!
Here’s some of the things I’ve learned about being a mom of teenage girls:
- We share. My makeup, fitness tops, shorts, leggings, shoes, you name it, she’s going to borrow it.
- You’re a taxi. You’ve probably been a taxi for so long now, that this doesn’t phase you much, but you know that you can’t make any plans yourself until you check your teenagers’ schedules. Oh, you wanted to meet a friend for coffee? Sorry, daughter #1 has to be somewhere. Girls night out? No thanks. Daughter #2 has plans to go somewhere with her friends and you’re the driver. (Sometimes I get to skip this because most of the time, they don’t want to ride with toddlers everywhere.)
- You compromise. Hair dye, piercings, funky clothes…you learn to pick your battles and realize that it’s just hair, no big deal.
- What you want for them may not be what they want for themselves. Whether it’s a certain circle of friends, sports, or a specific career path, you may have to start giving up some of the dreams or expectations you had for their lives. They are their own unique people and will carve out their own paths.
- They think they know more than you, and sometimes, it’s true. Of course, they don’t have your life experiences, and they definitely don’t know everything they may think they do, but this generation seems to be pretty insightful and precocious. Or maybe we are awesome parents and have taught them to be awesome at a young age. I’m going with the latter.
- Teens don’t always tell the truth. A great friend mentioned this to me today. “We program them from a very young age to lie to us. It makes total sense. If you’ve raised a good kid, they don’t want to disappoint, and in turn, they lie to protect themselves and us. Working through that concept helps…a ton!”
- Communication is key. I’ve made it clear that I will always, no matter what they do or say or what choice they make, love them and help them through it. I’ve also made it clear that I may be upset, and there will be consequences for their actions, but nothing that they could ever do would make me stop loving them or trying to help them be the best they can be.
- They can be mean. Call it hormones, call it whatever you want, but teenagers can be mean to their parents, and it hurts. I believe that most of the time, this comes from a relationship of trust. Because they trust that you will always love them and support them unconditionally, they are free to let loose and sometimes, it’s directed at you. Of course, it’s not acceptable, but if they don’t feel safe enough to say how they feel, then maybe the lines of communication need to be reopened.
- They want and need boundaries. They may not realize it, but they want and need rules. They want to know where they stand and what they can be trusted to do. They need clear expectations and guidelines, and they need to have clear consequences if those rules are not followed. It’s necessary to give them some autonomy, but it should be autonomy within safe boundaries.
- They will mess up, and you have to let them. It is hard to take a step back and watch them make some choices that you know they may regret later, but it’s important for them to make their own mistakes and see for themselves. They have to experience their lives. Don’t be a helicopter parent and swoop them in at the first sign of trouble. It’s much easier said than done for most parents. And for goodness sake, let them do their own projects in their own messy handwriting.
Thank you for taking the time to read! If you’ve found value in this, please share!