This year officially makes me a mom of teens. Although my eldest is turning 20 years old, I can only hope she stays a toddler forever! Yes. Time flies. That’s all I can say. To be honest, I couldn’t fathom the fact that I am a mom of four teenagers. While they say teen parenting is much more complicated, I say, teen or not, the word “parenting” is no joke. Parenting is unique. You cannot compare it with others because what works for me might not work for other parents, and vice-versa.
But before you read further, this isn’t about the “how to become a better parent of a teenager” type of article. There’s no such thing as a “school for parenting teens.” However, as a mom of four, I thought I was prepared for anything parenthood could throw my way. I had survived the sleepless nights of infancy, toddlerhood tantrums, and middle school drama. But as my children reached their teenage years, I found myself feeling lost and overwhelmed. I thought this was the moment I could finally breathe and relax.
It wasn’t just the mood swings, the constant bickering, or the eye-rolling that made me feel like I was drowning in chaos. It was the realization that my babies were growing up and becoming independent individuals with their own thoughts, feelings, and dreams. And as much as I wanted to protect them from this ambiguous world, I knew that I had to let go and trust that they were capable of making their own decisions.
As I stumbled through the first few years of teenage parenting, I learned valuable lessons that helped me gain clarity and navigate the challenges of raising teenagers. Allow me to share a few of them with you.
Lesson 1: Communication is key
Communication is a big part of everyone’s daily life, but not everyone can do it effectively. It’s a skill that requires practice, patience, and an open mind. As George Bernard Shaw said, “The greatest mistake in communication is to assume it has taken place.”
As a parent, it’s essential to remember that effective communication is not just about speaking and being heard. It’s also about actively listening, understanding, and responding in a way that shows you’ve genuinely heard and processed what your teenager is saying.
Talking to my teenagers was not always easy, especially when it felt like they were shutting me out. But I quickly realized that communication was the key to understanding their perspectives, addressing their concerns, and guiding them through difficult situations. I learned to listen more than I talked, to be patient, and to show empathy even when I disagreed with them.
Another vital aspect of communication is setting clear expectations and boundaries. Teenagers often push boundaries, but clear communication can help them understand the consequences of their actions and make informed decisions. When I establish clear expectations and communicate them effectively, they are more likely to respect and adhere to my requests. I can say that effective communication is key to successfully parenting teenagers. It takes effort, practice, and patience, but the benefits are immeasurable. Communicating openly and actively listening creates a safe space where your teenager can grow, learn, and thrive.
Lesson 2: Respect their individuality
As a mom, it’s natural to want your children to be just like you or to follow in your footsteps.
A good example is my eldest, Jersey. She writes. She works part-time as a social media manager and video editor for a New Zealand-based company, Mars Digital. However, her heart is really set in becoming a forensic psychologist. So even if I want her to become a writer like me, I have to be a mom to her and nourish and support her dreams. I learned that each child is unique, with their own interests, passions, and strengths. I had to let go of my expectations and embrace their differences, even when it meant supporting their dreams that were different from mine.
Lesson 3: Be present
Being present for your children can be challenging with work, household chores, and personal commitments. But I realized that being present doesn’t necessarily mean physically being there all the time. It means listening to them, paying attention to their needs, and being available when they need you. There’s a huge difference between present and presence. Be present, but let them feel your presence as well.
Lesson 4: Be open-minded
As a parent, it’s easy to fall into the trap of believing that you know what’s best for your children. But I learned that being open-minded and willing to learn from them was crucial. Teenagers have unique perspectives and insights; listening to them can help you better understand their needs.
Lesson 5: Set boundaries
Teenagers will likely test their boundaries, and your parent’s job is to set them. I learned that setting boundaries can help your children understand what’s expected of them and teach them responsibility. But it’s essential to be flexible and revisit those boundaries as they grow and mature.
Lesson 6: Encourage independence
To be honest, this is so challenging for me. I couldn’t cut the umbilical cord yet. However, as your children grow older, they will naturally crave independence. I learned that encouraging their independence can help them develop self-confidence, decision-making skills, and a sense of responsibility. But it’s critical to strike a balance between giving them freedom and keeping them safe.
Lesson 7: Empathy goes a long way
Teenagers go through a lot of changes and can experience a range of emotions. Remember those moments we couldn’t describe our emotions? Those were harsh moments, right? I don’t know about you, but my parents were always at work, and I was so clueless about what to do. So whenever I would ask, it was more like brush-it-off moments. So, when I became a parent, I learned that empathy could help you understand and connect with your children during difficult times. It doesn’t mean that you have to agree with them, but showing that you understand and care can go a long way in building a strong relationship.
Lesson 8: Celebrate their achievements
Parenting teenagers can be challenging, but it’s essential to celebrate their achievements, big or small. I learned that celebrating their successes can help build their self-esteem, motivate them, and strengthen their relationship. It’s important to recognize their hard work, even when it feels like they’re not listening or appreciating your efforts.
It takes a village to raise a child
As a mom of four teenagers, I am constantly learning new things about parenting. It’s not always easy, but the chaos and challenges of parenting teenagers can lead to moments of clarity and growth.
Through trial and error, I’ve learned that communication is key and that staying connected with my teens is vital, even when things get tough. I’ve also learned that setting boundaries and being consistent is crucial and that it’s okay to say “no” when necessary.
One of the most important things I’m learning is the value of listening to my teens and trying to understand their perspectives. It’s not always easy, but listening and empathizing can help build trust and strengthen our relationship.
In the end, parenting teenagers is a journey of self-discovery and growth for me and my teens. While it’s not always candies and cakes, the moments of clarity and connection make it all worth it. I am grateful for the opportunity to watch my children grow into independent and capable young adults, and I look forward to continuing to learn and grow alongside them.
So, to all the parents navigating the teenage years, remember you’re not alone. Embrace the chaos, stay connected, and always be willing to learn and grow. In the end, the journey is worth it.