Teenagerness

Are you a parent of teenagers? Pre-teens? Pre-pre-teens? This post is for you! I’ve had this ruminating in the back of my mind for several years. So, prepare for my thoughts on all things “teenagerness.”

Teenagerness is a phase…and it is hard. But you will all get through it!

Our oldest is now 18…and I feel like we have (mostly) come through the worst of the teenage angst with her. There are still days, but she really is a good kid, and I can call her on it when she takes out her frustrations with the rest of the world on me.

Several years ago, when we were in the thick of the worst of it, I wrote a post about taking a Time Out – for yourself and for your kids, no matter their ages. Everything I said then is still true. The reality is that our kids all bring all of their emotions home and dump them on us…and we may or may not be up for dealing with those emotions at any given time.

Our middle is in the pre-pre-teen stage, and he’s starting to show some definite teenagerness to us. Random acts of aggression, anger, yelling, telling us we’re so mean when we say no – oh, and “all of my friends get to…” do all the things that we don’t allow.  I’ve been called mean by all of my kids, and I consider that a sign that I give them boundaries and stick to it.

Being the Strong Mom is hard. No one ever said parenting was going to be a walk in the park – and there are days when we all want to go hide in the bathroom for five minutes of alone time to reset our sanity.

Parenting teenagers is a challenge. Keep your cool, have patience, and show your kids you love them.

I think it’s a given that parents know the teenage years can be rough. But we never really prepare ourselves for the reality of it when it happens. Teenagerness comes on in waves, and we’re seeing the first signs with our 10-year old. Which seems early, but I remember our oldest started getting really sassy when she was seven.

The oldest never had the terrible twos…although I do remember that getting her to stay in timeout was more of a challenge than anything when she was little. She has always been stubborn, which will serve her well in life, for the most part.

Our youngest is now seven, and is also sassy. The littles follow the lead of their older siblings, and the teenagerness vibe is very strong in our house.

All that to say, I have a little experience in dealing with all of those kid emotions, and while I am certainly not a perfect parent, I do have some ideas of how to counter the tornadoes of angry tears. My best advice? Stay calm. Keep your cool. Have patience.

Is that easy? NO! Of course not.

My top five tips for responding to teenagerness.

They say patience is a virtue, and I’m sure it is. I do not have loads of it myself. The best thing about having a life partner and co-parent? Usually, one of us has more patience than the other at any given time, and we can trade off who circles back to talk to the kids. As I said before, everyone needs a timeout from each other – and that time is not just for your kids to cool down, it is also time for you to step back and assess the situation. Figure out all the angles, and try to nail down what the real problem may be. Because the core issue bothering our kids is never what they are complaining about in the moment.

Years ago, one of my mom friends posted a note on social media about why she takes lunch to her high school age kids or brings them something they forgot at home when they ask her for help. And her thoughts have shaped my responses to my kids as they have grown. Our teenage kids today have so many things in their day to day that we never had to worry about: mainly social media and having a phone in their pockets all day. Being a teenager has never been easy. Growing Up is hard. Life is hard. The added stress of mean girls (or guys) on social media – a whole other level of mean than what us Gen X/Y kids had to deal with – adds multilevel anxiety to an already overwhelming experience.

I’ve given my thoughts on Screen Time in the past, and I do think devices should be limited. By the time our kids are in high school, we have to teach them the good and the bad sides of all kinds of technology. They use computers every single day. They are traveling for sports and clubs and activities, and we need to reach them, so having a phone is almost a necessity in today’s world. Yes, we lived without them when we were younger, but that is not where we are today.

In our house, we held off until the oldest was almost 12, and when we did get her a phone, it was a flip phone with no extra apps (which is what I recommend). Remind your kids that a phone is a tool, and its job is for you to reach them to communicate, not to play games.

However, we did give our oldest a smart phone when she was in 8th grade. And we did have challenges with social media and responsibility. She messed up. We took devices away. She was even grounded for lying to us and missed a Homecoming dance one year.

Kids will try to push the limits, and there are bigger limits and harder life lessons as they get older. The challenges of social media and phones really highlight the age-old challenges that have faced parents for generations. Trying new things. Drinking parties. Boys and girls…and yes, sex.

As I have pointed out to the teenager for years, the difference today? Rules and laws have changed because kids died. There is a reason that newly licensed drivers in our state cannot have other teens in the car with them for six months after they get their license. Kids died. There is a reason to wear a seatbelt all the time. Kids died. There is a reason we don’t like her driving on country roads late at night. Kids died. Adults died. People are tired late at night and aren’t paying as much attention – and when you add alcohol to the mix, it’s worse.

My biggest message to kids about driving? Stay safe! And there are reasons we keep telling them to be careful…we want them to stay alive!

Life lessons and growing up are hard. Teenagerness is hard for us as parents, but we have to continue to give boundaries and teach our kids about those life lessons. Because we need them to become responsible adults who know how to deal with all of the challenges life throws at us.

Parenting teenagers is a whole new ballgame. You’ve got this! Always remember that parents have been doing it for a millennia, and the key is to keep your cool. Have patience, show your kids love, and take a time out here and there when you both need it. Circle back, give them a hug, and talk it out to figure out the real problem. Above all else? Talk to your kids. Be honest. Love them.

Teenagerness is a phase. It does last years, and it’s hard. So hard. We’re all in it together – and I’m happy to listen if any of my friends needs to vent. I’m sure you have friends who will do the same near you. Make sure you take a mom/dad night here and there to get out and away too!

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