I’m officially a teenage mom! My girls turned 13 very recently. Although, somehow I feel like I’ve been the mom of teenagers for quite some time. If you have teens you probably know the feeling. And if you don’t, just wait until your kids turn about 10 or 11 years of age. Hints of the teenage years will start to creep in and by 13 you’re in it if you like it or not!
As my girls get further along into their teenage years, I know problems will change and the navigation of teenage life will get a little trickier. I just pray, hope, and beg that we’ll still like each other at the end of it. Really, I just hope they don’t become those teens that hate their parents. I know they won’t like me all the time and I’m okay with that. They’re not supposed to, right?
We’re In It and It’s Only the Beginning
So I’m in it now, trying to figure out my best skills for parenting teens. As I’ve seen glimpses of what my parenting skills are up against, I’ve definitely had to make some adjustments. Lately, my biggest approach to parenting is to make sure I’m there when they need me. I know that seems like a given. We’ve been there to wipe their bums, feed them, take care of them, and answer every beck and call. But, they don’t really need me there for a lot of that stuff anymore. At least I hope not! Now, it’s a different kind of need.
The 6 Things I’ve Learned
In the last year, I’ve been keeping tabs on my soon-to-be teens. Watching behaviors, mood swings, and interests change. I have to be honest, it is a little hard to watch your first babies grow up and turn into mini adults. You look back and feel like life has been in hyper speed. I remember thinking I could never imagine them as big kids, especially teenagers. Now, half of our children are teenagers. So, I thought a lot about what I’ve learned this year and what’s worked for me when parenting my new teens. There were 6 things that quickly came to mind when it came to parenting teens.
Share when they ask, and sometimes when they don’t ask. I’m not talking about when they try to take a sip of your drink and you don’t want them to backwash. I’m talking about YOU! Let them know some of your stories about when you made dumb decisions, or stories about the things you THOUGHT were so important at the time, but really weren’t. It all helps. Sometimes I point out my quirks and faults (if they don’t do it for me already) and the things that make me, me. That way they know that none of us are perfect. I’d like to think it helps them gain more confidence. It’s so important with teenagers.
Listen when they’re talking. This sounds silly, but too often we’re so caught up in our adult world. We’re trying to get things done so our lives are functioning smoothly. We forget to really listen. I’m not talking about listening only when they actually want to talk or need to tell me something important. I try to make it a point to listen when they want to tell me a joke or something ridiculous that I know absolutely nothing about. One of my girls loves to tell me random things. Sometimes it’s hard to stop what I’m doing and listen to something that doesn’t have any meaning to me, but I do it anyway. Otherwise, she’ll stop coming to me when she needs to talk or share her struggles.
Of course, there are moments when they might have to wait until another time, but I make sure I take notice when they need to talk to me about something or hint at it. I stop and listen. When I listen I don’t always listen ready to give a solution. That leads me to number 2.
3. You Don’t Always Have to Give Answers
Don’t always have an answer or give your opinions unless they’re looking for one. I try to tread lightly on offering opinions even when asked for them because it can backfire on you. I’ve been told I’m being “too judgy” even when my opinion was asked for. Listen without always being ready to give a solution. Sometimes they don’t want that or need it. They just need to vent, like we need to. They’re not always ready to hear a solution. Sometimes I ask if I can tell them what I’m thinking. Men aren’t the only ones giving solutions when you talk to them about your problems. Parents can have a hard time holding themselves back from always trying to solve their kid’s problems.
4. Be Empathetic
Remember what life was like when you were their age? I honestly think I tried to block out that awkward time of my life. I had to dig down into the depths of my middle school memories to remember what teenage life was like then. Use those memories to help you put yourself in their shoes. Then think about their personality, and how they navigate life thus far. It might help you to understand where they’re coming from, how they ended up in a sticky spot, or why they’re feeling a certain way.
There was a time during the school year when the girls passed by someone in a store aisle that was in their class. I thought it was so weird to pass by someone you clearly knew and not say hi. Well, I had to bring up those awkward memories and remember you don’t do that when you’re that age. These days, as a woman in my 40’s it’s quite the opposite. If you don’t say hi or acknowledge someone that you might know, you could very well be considered rude. It’s hard to understand their teenage logic, but being empathetic works.
Last year I listened to (can’t stay awake long enough to read these days) a great book called Unselfie: Why Empathetic Kids Succeed in Our All-About-Me World by Michele Borba. This book was an excellent read for understanding how empathy plays an important role not only in kids but in parents as well. I was so moved by the book, I wrote a blog post on the importance of our children’s social-emotional well-being.
5. Don’t Get Caught In All the Emotions
Don’t get too caught up in their emotional waves. Teens have all sorts of feelings at all sorts of times. I’m always trying to figure out what is going on in their heads. I notice I start to feel terrible when they are feeling bad. Then I remember it can be a whole slew of reasons why they’re experiencing certain emotions. From menstrual cycles to regular old teenage hormones, and personality types, you never quite know. I don’t even think a psychologist could understand everything that’s going on in their brain.
You wreck your brain wondering why in the world are they so upset. You hate to watch it and it feels really awful when it’s directed towards you. Parenting teens has taught me to assess first to see if I need to step in or just let the emotions ride the wave. I have found myself riding the emotional wave with them and worrying too much when it may have been just a bad day. I know we’re only at the beginning of the teenage years and problems can get much bigger, so I figure I better chill out.
6. Decision-Making Skills Aren’t Fully Developed
Have patience and remember, that those decision-making skills aren’t fully developed. Give them some slack with their lack of good decisions or judgment and use it as teaching moments. They can make some dumb decisions, or just seem to lose the ability to think through problems that we might see as having an obvious solution. I watch them fumble around sometimes and I wonder what is going on inside their heads. Probably a lot! Too many things are happening with their body at this age.
Expectations at home and at school are higher when they become teenagers. School can often become murky waters to navigate when your self-confidence seems to take a dive from what it was. Our kids are getting older, so we want them to act older. They do, but I think we often want them to take a much larger leap than they’re able when it comes to thinking and making decisions. That’s me needing to be empathetic to their age.
I’m sad to see the big kids go, but it is fun to welcome the teenager in. There are so many new and beautiful things to discover in your relationship with your children as they get older. Before, there was so much time spent on caring for their basic needs. Now you can get on with it and actually enjoy your time together. That’s not to say this new season of life with your kids will bring along new challenges. As long as I know that my skills for parenting teens might need some work along the way, and my style may need adjustments, I’d like to think we’ll be okay! Check in with me in a few years and we’ll see.
Continuing to let them know that we’re all human and each of us is trying our best is a great lesson in itself. So what little gems have you discovered about parenting teens? Comment and let me know!