When my kids were fairly young I was chatting with a mom with older kids. We were talking about teenage kids and she said, “It’s a good thing you get 12 years to learn to love them!” I was silently appalled. Her negativity and cynicism didn’t sit right with me. Although I had some parenting frustrations, I loved my children more than anything and knew my kids wouldn’t be like “that”. It did, however, spark some fear of the unknown. What did this experienced mom know that I didn’t? Why did teenagers have this reputation, what challenges would it cause for me?
Would my kids be moody, need more privacy than I was comfortable with, and experiment with dating, drinking, and different social circles? Would I know what to do and accept my changing role as parent of a teen versus a parent of a younger child? How would I help them navigate the difficult teen years, and how would I navigate them myself, especially with 3 children of varying ages?
Fortunately by the time my kids entered the adolescent years, I had some go-to resources. I had been taking parenting courses and the courses for parents of teens were available just when I needed them. The experiential style of the programs drove the messages home about what was needed from me (setting limits while giving up some control-scary!), and how to do that. I found other parents going through the same things I was and leaders that offered information, support, and great advice.
Were the teen years perfect for us – by no means!! We had our share of disagreements, calling on the carpet, anxious thoughts about what their future would hold, and tearful late night support sessions. Along with that scary stuff, we also had, celebrations for hard work that paid off, family fun hanging out and enjoying each other, dinners with everyone helping out, and respectful appreciation for each other as individuals.
There’s no avoiding the tough things that teens and families have to go through, AND, there is a way to handle it so those years are not just about surviving, but about thriving with confident respectful communications that keep the relationships intact. Twelve years is a turning point, and you embracing this new phase of development with knowledge, confidence, and a clear understanding of your role will deepen the love rather than make it more volatile.