Oh, No, It’s the Teenage Years, Again

Gabby, a Grown and Flown friend, writes: When I became a new mother, I was often surprised when my youthful mother-in-law answered my specific questions about her own three babies with a shrug and the response, “You know… I just don’t remember.” My youngest child has befriended quite a few “first-borns” and, when I am asked questions by their moms, I have to admit, my own recollections are often vague much like my mother-in-law’s. When did I first let them ride public transport alone? Did they drive at night? When was curfew? -  leave me scratching my head. Embarrassed, I wonder to myself whether I was a bad mother, too stressed with our three children or simply blocked out the teenage years.

Re-entering  ”the pre-launch stage” with my youngest child is a mixed blessing.  I enjoy things more, am more flexible, and less judgmental.  I don’t worry about the minutiae or, at least everything, and am I definitely more confident.

But there are times when I do think,  ”Oh no, not this … I just can’t do the teenage years again.” Either I can’t muster the enthusiasm (like those energetic sideline moms) or I’m pretty sure I didn’t get it right the first time, or worse yet, now that I better understand the hazards of this specific stage (driving and texting, academic pressure, unhealthy relationships, under age drinking etc.) I realize I should really worry more.

teenagers, color wars

While I can’t recall all the specifics around parenting my older two during those high school years, I have learned quite a bit from the experiences.  So this time around my plan involves these top eight approaches…..

1. Aim for a balance between respect and openness

My children shared a fair amount with me. I think they felt safe enough to confide in us about big concerns and voice their opinions while having their own privacy.  However, they also worried (and were even a bit scared) about disappointing us if they weren’t respectful, truthful or broke safety rules. I conveyed that they should have some of their own privacy but that it was an earned privilege.

2. Practice having a thoughtful rationale ahead of time

Most of us grew up with parents who said  ”because I said so.” I am able to articulate my own values which my child needs to hear and it is much easier to be consistent in the heat of argument when you have done your homework.

3. Decide to trust until there is a reason to distrust

I remind myself that this stage is about “letting go”  and my goal is to teach my child to become self-sufficient and make good choices.  When trust is broken, remind them that it will require baby steps to regain that trust.

4. Value process, progress and character building instead of focusing on the end result

My older kids have learned that hard work, a good attitude, honesty, generosity, responsibility, flexibility, and adjusting to setbacks are part and parcel of happiness and success.  Merely focusing on the finish line may lead to disappointment, may not teach your children about integrity, or it might bypass them discovering who they are meant to become as adults.

5. Use humor whenever possible

When I could get my kids to laugh about my own flaws and struggles, it was easier to talk about their own.  At the stressful point of college visits my kids and I made a pact to laugh about the silliest comment made on each campus visit.  Humor is also a way to send subtle messages.

 6. Find any activity to keep communicating

I am a full-fledged failure at shopping.  Instead of getting frustrated at indecision or the superficiality of it, I have shifted my attitude and see it as a tutorial about fashion and a lesson in spending choices.  I bide my time until we can chat over a coffee or meal afterwards.  With my son, I stuck to exercise and talking sports, the second of which I have no clue about.

 7. Help my child envision their future beyond high school and college

Encourage them to talk with other people beyond their parents so they can learn about careers, lifestyles, adventures, disappointments, relationships, financial decisions etc.

 8. Start the conversation and model life skills that even the best education can’t do

Now is the time to help them cultivate different skills and perspectives (beyond academia) as they approach the “real world.”  I want to dispel the notion that if you follow a certain formula (often laid out in high school and by other adults) that they will find their purpose in the world and will be happy.  With my older kids, I encouraged them to dream big but we brainstormed strategies for dealing with stress and disappointments.  They have been exposed to practices  and encouraged to develop an inner life, whatever that may look like.

As your child enters those last couple years before leaving for college and beyond, what are your top parenting strategies for the final teenage years at home?

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Comments

  1. To listen. To laugh. To buckle-up for the rough spots. To enjoy the view because it’s fleeting. To listen again. To laugh together some more. To bake their favorite things. To rough their hair and hug them. To attend what they do at school. To enjoy the sound of their friends hanging around. To listen. To laugh. To loosen the heartstrings so they can fly.
    Barbara recently posted..wordMy Profile

  2. “6. Find any activity to keep communicating”. . . this is the most important, in my opinion. Because I could never talk with my mother, I swore I’d get this one right. I’m not great at it, but I try every day to be more of a listener.

    This is an excellent article.
    lisa weldon recently posted..Stories from the Green CabinMy Profile

    • Lisa, we agree that our friend Gabby has written a great post about her wonderful parenting strategies, including # 6 which is a personal favorite of mine, too. We are fortunate she has shared them here.

  3. Nice post. My older kids are 28 and 25; step kids are 33, 31 and 26. Now we have a 15 year old and can I remember how to raise a teen? Hell no! Every one of them is different and every one will throw you a curve ball once in a while. Listen to them and keep your sense of humor!

    • Agreed, every child is different and having a good sense of humor and listening are critical skills, especially during the teenage years.

  4. i think you’ve covered it as you always do-especially 5 & 6. its the thread that keeps you connected no matter what path they take or what path we take when they’re gone. it’s an investment in the future.
    sandy recently posted..A ROAD TRIP TO THE GARDEN STATEMy Profile

    • A good sense of humor and shared interests seem to be parenting habits that many of us agree on as being very, very important.

  5. I agree 100% with Barbara (above). That’s what I try to do every day.
    “To listen. To laugh. To buckle-up for the rough spots. To enjoy the view because it’s fleeting. To listen again. To laugh together some more. To bake their favorite things. To rough their hair and hug them. To attend what they do at school. To enjoy the sound of their friends hanging around. To listen. To laugh. To loosen the heartstrings so they can fly.”
    Patricia Yager Delagrange recently posted..Wack-a-do Hairdos and SuchMy Profile

  6. From when they were very young I told my kids to tell me the truth – the whole truth. No matter how bad it was, we would work it out without anger. If I caught them in a lie, the consequences would be worse. It worked well. They felt comfortable coming to me with major problems.
    Kyle recently posted..Sunday RitualsMy Profile

  7. Even though I’m a relatively new mom to two boys (3 1/2 and 3 months) I love reading this blog for the heartfelt well balanced advice that I glean from your articles. From this article I especially like #5 humor and #8. I have found that humor can deescalate a tantrum or be an armor that my 3 year old wears when nervous about a situation. It also allows him to open up and talk to us about a bothersome situation. And #8 is one that I will incorporate with my own children. Thank you as always ladies for sharing your wisdom : )
    Nareen recently posted..Sometimes only grandma seems to understand me…My Profile

    • Nareen, we are so pleased whenever we see your comments here! Your remark about valuing our perspective is such a compliment to us and, in this case, our good friend, Gabby. Thank you. You are just beginning on the road that we have been on for two decades and we wish you much love and happiness with your young sons.

  8. I feel like I need to come back to this in several years. I’m almost as fearful of the teen years as I was of childbirth. I guess I got through that, but not completely unscathed. Saving for later! Thanks. :)
    Deb @ Urban Moo Cow recently posted..Dream DeferredMy Profile

  9. I love your top 8! I think I try to work on each one but 8 is my favorite. Set an example of the life you want for your child. If you want them to value knowledge and reading then as a parent you must model the ability to learn even at an adult stage. If we can still have a zest for learning we teach our children to do the same!
    Cherise recently posted..We Do, Till Death Do We PartMy Profile

  10. Thank you for validating the response of your Mother In Law. I have received the same response when asking questions about my husbands childhood and wasn’t sure if she really didn’t recall or did she just not want to talk about her parenting. :)

    • So easy to forget the details of our past with kids – the present is so vivid that I think it makes it harder to remember the way back when.

Trackbacks

  1. […] Gabby, a Grown and Flown friend, writes: When I became a new mother, I was often surprised when my youthful mother-in-law answered my specific questions about her own three babies with a shrug and the response, “You know… I just don’t remember.” My…  […]

  2. […] Parker-Pope reports in the February 5, 2012, New York Times Magazine, that today’s teens are engaged in less risky behavior than their parents were.  Whew….can we all breathe a sigh […]

  3. […] lesson about the seasons.  This time as a mom, I worry less and listen more. I laugh more at the absurdities of teen-hood  and finally I waste less time thinking about where things are going and how my youngest daughter […]

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