Do you remember those days when your baby would seek you out, cuddle you, fill up your arms and just couldn’t get enough of you? (And maybe you were needing a break, wishing for some alone time?) Yeah, that changes. Now, my child wants space and I long for the old ways. Parenting during the teenage years is completely different!
When my daughter was born, it felt like that we became each other’s lifeline. She is still my number one priority but the truth is, I am no longer hers.
I console myself with this: it is supposed to be this way.
My job is to assist her in growing up, becoming independent and healthy – emotionally, mentally and physically – so that she doesn’t need anyone and can happily live and thrive on her own. I admit I struggle with this a bit.
Parenting during the teenage years feels like I am slowly being broken up with, a little each day.
Not only does it take its emotional toll, but I feel helpless. I want to envelop her in my arms and whisper the secrets to easing through the hardships of high school. Not that I really know the answers. But still.
Here are 7 ways I try to stay as connected as possible while surviving the teen years:
Tip #1 – Let Her Pick the Music
Yes, you’re right – you’ll likely hear rap and cringe-worthy pop in your car and home… but I’m allowing her to ‘try on’ different genres, clothes, and ways of being – without my judgment. I don’t love the music, but I love that she doesn’t ‘edit’ herself with me. I am even okay with the swears in the lyrics…and honestly, sometimes they are HARSH. But, it makes for great discussions about how women are treated, how sex is defined, etc.
My hard stop: if a song has the N-word in it, under no circumstances can you say it or sing it along with the music.
Tip #2 – Hit the Road
Our family loves Jeep rides! In the winter, our 4-wheel drive can get through any condition Mother Natures throws at us. In the summer, the top and doors come off and it feels so freeing!
I’ve found that on all of these ‘just for fun’ drives (especially when it’s just the two of us), she opens up a bit more and shares what’s going on with her. Perhaps it’s because there’s no eye contact that it feels less invasive. Whatever it is, it is magical to delve deep into her thoughts and feel the wind in our hair while driving along the Rye coast. It’s during these moments that I don’t feel like I’m merely surviving the terrible teens but that we are thriving in this amazing moment of our lives.
Tip #3 – Honesty = Best Mom Policy
And I mean, being brutally honest.
I got pregnant when I was 17 and had an abortion. It still haunts me. I was on birth control, broke up with the guy, took myself off the pill and then we reconnected. Life-changing and regretful, but it was the right choice for me.
My daughter knows this and now understands why I’m so direct with her about the safety of sex, birth control, drugs, & alcohol.
I don’t shy away from talking about it. I’m sex-positive in a healthy way, but also real. (And maybe it’s a bit easier for me to talk about this and answer her questions in the Jeep too.)
Tip #4 – Be in the Moment
That goes for both of us. I’m doing my best to not check my phone all the time.
When I am lucky enough to get time with her, I’m all in.
I make sure she is, too. I give her clear expectations on how not to be looking at one’s phone while in a conversation, etc.
Tip #5 – Remind Her of Her Job
My girl has a heart of gold and aims to please. She never intends to hurt anyone and is pretty tuned in to my feelings. I sensed that sometimes she has hung out with me when opportunities have come up with her friends…and she had really wanted to be with them.
Once I was onto this, I let her know that it is her job to grow up and separate from me, to find friends, find her tribe, her interests, etc.
This seemed to relieve some pressure. But still family time and our relationship is important! And often we try to include her friends in fun big family things.
Tip #6 – Bite Your Tongue
I try to listen with curiosity (without judgment) as best as I can. I try to validate – “Gawd, that sounds so awful!” And I try my best not to give advice. Sometimes I just can’t take it any longer, and advice comes verbally vomiting out of my mouth. And, yes, it gets her defensive. But usually my message is,
“Oh you’ve got this. I know things will work out. Hmm, what will you try?”
And if I can’t stop my controlling ‘let me fix this right now’ urge, I try to ask, “Can I give you a piece of advice?” At least I am partially giving her control.
Tip #7 – Find Your Tribe
After elementary school, I noticed I saw other moms less, and soon felt less connected. So, I joined a monthly, networking/support group of moms that is held in the seacoast and is facilitated by local teen & parent counselor, Eileen Sutherland found HERE.
(New groups are starting this month, so you can still join! We’d love to have you!)
We all have kids in the same grade and so I have felt supported and gotten the inside scoop on things happening. It feels so good to not feel alone in the parenting gig. Plus, every month, Eileen shares articles and strategies that gently push and challenge our thinking but also help us to feel we are supported and on the right path. I truly think it’s helped me to be a better and less-stressed mom.
As my girl has grown, I’ve always believed that things just kept getting better with each new milestone and age. Parenting during the teenage years is challenging but I’m so proud of her! My favorite milestone I’m celebrating right now? Her new-found spunk and sarcasm! I see her finding her way, and her voice which makes up for not seeing her as much these days.
I admire her for the strong willed, kind, incredible, very unique individual she already is and is blossoming into.