You may have felt you missed out on the owner’s manual when you first gave birth, but nothing prepares you for the crisis of confidence you may feel when your children reach their teens.
When I recently spoke with Judy Reith of www.parentingpeople.co.uk about the challenges my husband and I faced in raising my step-daughter, she smiled with reassurance: “Nobody has all the right answers when it comes to bringing up kids, let alone teenagers. As parents, we also feel peer pressure! Society wants us to churn out perfect children and be perfect parents – but there is no such thing!”
This can be particularly challenging for mothers who are used to (or at least aspiring) perfection in their work lives. However, as Judy points out “Parents often experience a range of emotions often not that different from teens! They can feel sad their child only wants to see them when they need money or a lift, envious of their teen’s future opportunities, fed up when their partner disagrees on parenting styles and even have a heightened sense of their own mortality when realising they are raising the generation that will replace their own.”
I came into my step-daughter’s life when she was 7, but her teen years were by far the most challenging as we lamented: “We’ve raised her for years – shouldn’t we know what we’re doing by now?” What happened to that enthusiastic chatterbox who would let you plait her hair whilst you watched Strictly Come Dancing? Who is this moody, spotty grunter you’re living with now who is seemingly glued to their XBox? In the first years, it all seems relatively straightforward compared to when kids reach those ‘tween years, where 13 can look, sound and try to act like 17.
Addressing challenging behaviour can descend from a giving a stern word to screaming rows. Parents can feel bewildered, unsure and stressed about coping in these turbulent years. It can be extra difficult if you and your partner disagree on dealing with the challenges – which certainly happened with my own husband and I.
As Judy, mother of three teenage daughters, points out: “But it’s not all bad. There are many great aspects to having teenagers under your roof. Shoe swaps, someone to have a laugh with, or simply watching them become their own person are some of the joys of parenting. “No doubt, there were many activities we did with my stepdaughter that allowed us to feel like kids again ourselves, like weekend bike rides and trips to the Chinese Circus and DisneyWorld.
Judy reminds us to remember the positive by focusing on: “What do you enjoy about your teenager? Find a way to tell them. Teenagers are often given such bad press, and it can be hard to compliment someone who seems to be perennially rude to you, but the behaviour the parent comments on is more likely to be repeated, so it’s worth commenting on anything at all that is OK. Tricky – it’s so much easier to point out their faults, but they need a good model, not a critic if they’re to navigate their way through adolescence.”
If you are raising teens, please join us tomorrow for the webinar on Parenting Skills for Busy Working Mothers: Raising Teens and ‘Tweens in the 21st Century on April 26th at 8Pm where we will have Judy Reith with us to share ideas on how to make the choppy waters of your teen’s adolescent years feel a little more like plain (or plainer!) sailing.