Just when you feel you’ve got a handle on this parenting thing, you’re in a routine with bedtime schedules, finished potty training, can count to three in a serious voice or put someone in time out without blinking – Boom. One of your kids becomes a teenager. Suddenly, everything you thought you understood about parenting is flipped upside-down. For me it wasn’t sudden; it was a gradual shift as my oldest entered the teen years. At first I thought, wow, this isn’t so bad. I’ve got this. But after a while, the reality sinks in that this is no longer a little child. She’s growing into a young lady, and my parenting skills have to grow and develop right along with her.
Teen years are especially difficult because the problems they face are difficult and our time left to parent them at home is short. There’s so much to pack into these years and our teens are facing an incredible amount of turmoil as they get ready to leave the nest and hopefully become independent, capable adults. Just for starters, the many issues looming include puberty, dating, driving, drugs, alcohol, sex, peer pressure, questioning their faith, attitude, hormones, social media, sexting, texting, school work, pressures about their future, independence, friendships, anxiety, and the list goes on and on. Our worries as parents are great and for good reason. Teen problems, even with a great teen, are fraught with emotion and real life consequences. We want to shield them, steer them in the right direction, or at least be there with a life boat just in case it gets worse before it gets better.
I turned to my friends and asked what they do for resources and to develop parenting skills for these teen years. One friend laughed and said, “drink wine.” I laughed but upon leaving it hit me. We are all in the same boat. We are struggling through parenting teens without the same support systems we had when the kids were babies or toddlers. Why is that?
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It might be partially due to not being able to share the details of the teen parenting struggle with friends or others out of respect and privacy for our teen. This is true especially online or in groups where your friends might have kids at the same school as your own. I know many parents feel this way, which is probably a huge reason there aren’t mommy blogs for moms of teens. When my small friend group does share about teen parenting struggles, I am astounded by the variety of issues my friends face. None of us are going through these years the same.
The hardest part as a parent for me is not knowing if we’re parenting our teens correctly. When something happens and they really need guidance on the big issues, am I doing it right? I know that technically there isn’t a right answer to any parenting question, but my heart and my head desperately want reassurance that we are going in the right direction. I tell friends that I just want a fast-forward button to peek ahead to see if we’re on the right track. When you’re potty training and worried if they will ever get it, people will often retort, “Well, you don’t see many adults walking around not potty trained. They’ll figure it out.” I wish we had the same reassurance that these teen issues will just all get figured out eventually.
So what do we do? How do I parent my teens through the normal everyday stuff and the really tough times that scare me?
My simple answer is that I love them with all my heart and soul and I get on my knees and pray.
My teens need to know in the depths of their soul that their dad and I love them unconditionally. My own parents did a beautiful job with this while I was growing up and I feel it gave me the space and the confidence I needed to become my own person in my own way.
I also need to pray not only for my kids, but for my husband and I as we parent them into adulthood. Prayer won’t fix everything or make it all turn out the way I think it should, but prayer will give me peace in making our parenting decisions and in understanding and accepting God’s will for my family. It’s a great reminder that someone bigger than everything has got my back. No matter what.
My goal is to remember these two solutions when I get overwhelmed with the big parenting decisions we face or even in the grind of the everyday. I know I'm not alone as I face these years with my two (and soon to be three) teens. If you are parenting teens, how do you get the resources and parenting skills you need?
Copyright 2017 Lisa Henley Jones
About the Author
Lisa Henley Jones is a wife, mom, native Texan, and parish communications director. She enjoys reading, walking, going on date nights, and cheering on her kids in their activities. As a social media consultant, Lisa teaches Catholic parishes to engage, inspire, and evangelize on social media. Find her blog at Of Sound Mind & Spirit and her social media course at Parish Social Media.