Don’t Fear the Teen Years… Tips from a Mama of 6

Tips for the Teen Years from Julie Cole - SavvyMom

I always fancied myself as a baby person. This could explain why I had six of them. It wasn’t long after I had a baby that I’d start thinking about the next one. The baby phase was my happy place, and I couldn’t imagine leaving it. Fast forward a few years, and I had five teenagers and a tween. I am not sure why this shocked me since we know that babies don’t keep. And the teen years are something to fear.

I’m here to tell you it’s going to be ok. Each age and stage comes with joys and challenges, and the teen years are no exception. I’ve learned a few things along the way and hope that sharing these few points might make other “baby mamas” like me look to the future not with dread but with excitement. So here’s what I have learned that has made being a mom of teenagers more enjoyable.

Tips for Surviving the Teen Years:

1. Do not take things personally

You know how your young child would keep it all together at school and then LOSE it the moment they came home? You would go to parent/teacher interviews and hear about your angelic child and wonder if you were talking about the same child that lives with you. This was coined the “after-school restraint collapse” and referred to your child working SO hard all day trying to stay regulated that their mental, emotional, and physical energy would collapse when they got home. For teens, it looks a lot like being rude and disrespectful to parents. Here’s the thing – they are like that because they feel safe with you. I know, weird compliment, right? So, buckle up, and know that when they are about 25, they will apologize for the teen years. You have to hold your nose and wait 10 years for an apology. This is not to say you should be a punching bag and not have boundaries, but you should make sure you are not taking things too personally.

2. Meet them where they are

Do not try to drag them into the things you want them to do. Join them in their interests. I’m currently watching an incredibly dull (to me) anime series because my 13-year-old loves it. He has already watched the entire series but is watching it again to see my reactions. I watched the Breaking Bad series with my 16-year-old to talk about the plotline and our favourite characters. I have pulled up a stool and watched kids play Minecraft, Overwatch, and Fortnite so I could talk about their “kills.” Take an interest in things you are not the least interested in because your teens are worth it.

3. Communicate in untraditional places

With little ones, many chats happen at dinner and when they get tucked-in at bedtime. With teenagers, family dinners are a rarity – they have sports, school activities, part-time jobs, boyfriends, and social lives. Parents often go to bed before their teens, so good luck having tuck-in chats. Keeping the conversations going and finding places to have them is essential. Tackling conversations while in the car seems effective for a few reasons. First, since you are driving, there is no eye contact. This can sometimes make words flow a little easier for teens. Also, you have a captive audience when you’re in the car. Unless they jump out of a moving vehicle, they’re stuck talking to you!

4. When they’re being dishonest, look to yourself

Whenever there has been a situation where a child has withheld information or not been honest, I always ask myself, “what have I done that has made my teen feel like they could not be honest with me?” I am fiercely committed to creating a place where my children always feel safe and to tell the truth. If they don’t, I know I have work to do and that open conversation needs to be had. Speaking of creating a safe space, I also make our home safe for any of their friends. Every child is accepted in our home for who they are. My teens are so appreciative that they can provide their friends with a safe place if needed.

5. Pick the hill you want to die on

I see parents of teens get their knickers in a knot over NOTHING. With teens, the fewer “rules,” the better. I was recently asked what my teens curfew was. I said that was not a word I would use. If they are going out in the evening, it looks like this:

Teen: “Hey, mom, I’m going out tonight to a party and Abby’s house.”
Me: “that sounds like fun. What time can I expect you home?”
Teen: “Does midnight sound ok?”
Me: “Sure, if there’s a change of plans, just keep me updated.”
Teen: “will do!”

No power struggles. No threat of punishment. No negativity. Just a conversation.

This all said, sometimes teens can be jerks. However, if your teen is being a jerk, that does not make you a bad parent. Some of the best parents I know have had teens who are jerks. The good news is those teens went on to be awesome adults who left their jerkiness behind. I think it’s important for parents to remember during the teen years that often, at this age and stage, these kids are not feeling great about themselves. Therefore, we must be their cheerleaders and let them know we are in their corner. Remember, when kids act the most unlovable, they probably need your love the most.

Enjoy and love your teens because just as babies don’t keep, neither do teens.


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