Parenting a teenager has its horror stories. Everyone has heard of the bad and ugly of it all, and there’s always the jokes as the kid is a toddler, “Oh, just wait until they’re a teenager!” You’d think as a society we’d almost make the age of adulthood 12 years old just so people didn’t have to deal with their kids anymore.
Now don’t get me wrong, there are some tough days, but how people described raising a teenager (one layer of hell, maybe?) and the reality have not always been the same thing. Here’s my top ten list of things I wish people would have told me about raising a teenager.
1. Both good and bad emotions run high
Hormonal fits are basically par for the course when one thinks of raising a teen, but it’s not all bad. Those same extreme emotions can be for good things also! A great Eid gift can get a squeal of excitement, or winning at a tournament can bring back that huge smile you fell in love with when they were small (wasn’t that just yesterday?).
2. They are passionate
Teens still have a great amount of energy, and those strong emotions result in passions. How is that used? Well, that’s the question, isn’t it? That passion could be used for the latest pop band, or for world issues, or for writing, a sport, etc. Sometimes it takes a bit of help from Mom and Dad to find their passions, and they likely still need you to facilitate it. Kira’s passion is fencing, and she’ll do whatever she needs in order to make sure she can get to practice and tournaments. The idea is to help them find a healthy passion rather than an unhealthy one, in sha Allah (God willing).
3. Don’t forget your past
Let’s be fair. Many of us have chapters in our life we’d rather not publish. You don’t need to disclose your discretions to your child, and I’d even argue that you shouldn’t, at least until they are well into adulthood and they start realizing their checkered past. Still, don’t forget that everyone makes mistakes. As a teen, you may not have had the forethought to make wise decisions, and your teen may not have that either. You can’t expect them to make less mistakes just because you think you’ve imparted your wisdom on them from your mistakes. Did that work when your parents did it?
4. They are more forgiving than you think
We all make mistakes, even as adults. We worry our kids will hold things over our head forever if we admit we made a mistake, but teens are more forgiving than you may think. Admitting that you were wrong is the first step. How can they forgive you when you don’t say you’re sorry? Say it sincerely, and as often as necessary. You’ll be pleasantly surprised how often they’ll say they forgive you.
5. You can be their friend
For a long time, I held that I was not going to be my daughter’s friend. I am her mom. I don’t have to lose my Mom Card though, just because I also want to be her friend. I still do not condone a mother going to her teen’s level in order to be friends. Rather, we can meet halfway. For instance, Kira and I went to Divergent together, with our mutual mother/daughter friends. From time to time (admittedly more rare since I have two small kids now) we’ll go pottery painting together, or rock climbing. I don’t have to act like a teen to be friendly with my teen. And she doesn’t have to act like an adult to be friendly with her mother. Balance.
6. Homeschooling helps
I started feeling a disconnect with Kira when she was in 3rd grade at public school. There have been some rocky areas since then, but overall, I feel like we’ve gotten closer the longer we homeschool. Really, we need to find a workable relationship if we are with each other so often! Seeing each other so often affords us the ups and downs of any relationship, building bonds from both the good and working through the bad. Alhamdulilah (Praise God).
7. Give them space
You can’t always be in their space. Teens are trying to figure out who they are in the world, and Mom isn’t always going to be in the picture. It’s okay if Kira’s in her room for a few hours by herself from time to time. It’s okay if she hangs out with friends at their house sometimes. I don’t have to monitor her every move.
8. But not too much
How loved do you feel if your spouse says, “Meh, come back whenever, no biggie.” every time. If you were never home, and never saw your husband, it would be sad to never feel missed. Sometimes we tell Kira we just want her to be home so we can hang out with her, too. We might not have anything specific planned, but we just want to be near her. In sha Allah (God willing), she feels needed and wanted at home, because she is.
9. Discipline is more than grounding
Staying home shouldn’t be the punishment all the time. If they are home over the weekend, it shouldn’t always be because they are in trouble! Sometimes extra chores fit the bill, or missing out on a certain event. Taking away cell phones is a common punishment in our culture, too. Spice it up a bit, but leave the punishment of staying home to a minimum.
10. Talk through through issues
It’s easy to fall into the mode that worked when the kids were younger, and to just tell our child what we want, when we want it, and what will happen if they don’t comply. Teens often express that they feel like adults (I remember feeling like I was an adult!), so who wants to be spoken to like a child?! Talk to them like you would a coworker when you have an issue. Make sure to stay on point, express your perspective, and where things broke down. Let them talk, too, and make sure to listen. These are the building blocks for their future relationships! Take this training very seriously.
Are you parenting a teenager, or have an adult child? What advice do you wish someone gave you?
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