Advice

Raising Teenagers: 5 Things Mums of Teenagers Need to Hear

Teenagers. ARGH. Am I right?

Sometimes it’s easy to forget we were once teenagers with a world of angst and a body full of hormones guiding us into making bad decisions and making reckless friendships. And we didn’t even have the pressure of social media! As teens, everything in our lives was heightened and dramatised.

The social landscape may have changed since we were teens, but teenagers haven’t.

A Gen X mum’s guide to raising teenagers today

I am a Gen X mum. Born in 1980, we are the generation with no Fs to give. The generation left out of the boomer/millennial/gen z wars. The generation no one messes with. The original latchkey kids, the kids whose parents likely didn’t know where they were until the street lights came on. We were the generation who learned to entertain ourselves and had no concept of personal safety.

We like to think we parent differently to other generations but at the end of the day, we all want to understand our kids and hope they grow into good humans. Our parents were likely just as exasperated and confused by our behaviour as we are by our teens.

teenage boy with mum
Source: Bigstock

It’s not easy raising kids in the 21st century. Gender identity is talked about more openly, and sexuality doesn’t have young people hiding in closets anymore.

Our teenagers are more confident with who they are and, for the most part, totally unafraid to be themselves. They have deep opinions about things that affect them and are unafraid to say them out loud. They don’t sit back and wait for adults to do something anymore.

There are the teenagers leading protests and calling out lgbtphobia, racism, and actively trying to save the planet. At the same time, they’re also teenagers doing trendy dances on TikTok and opening their lives to other people to view and comment on.

So, how does a savvy parent navigate the waters of raising teenagers without not wanting to throttle them? It’s all about self-care, finding calm, picking your battles, and the relationship you have with your teenager.

Here are five things I’ve learned about raising teenagers.

1. It’s okay to let the small things slide.

I don’t get on my kids’ backs about their bedrooms. It’s their space and as long as there’s no food growing penicillin, I shut the door.

Sooner or later, they lose something in there and after blaming me for about twenty minutes, they clean their room until they find it.

2. It’s okay to set boundaries for yourself.

Teenagers are volatile, this is not a secret and any parent of one knows they can go from “you’re the best” to “I hate you” in the time it takes to exhale.

If your teenager says or does something to hurt you emotionally or physically, it’s okay to walk away and not engage with them until they offer a genuine apology. There’s a fact that floats about online about how the primary caregiver usually cops the worst behaviour because they’re the person the teenager feels safest with.

I’ve found this to be true, a Band-Aid phrase but ultimately true. I’m the parent that my teens rant at, yell at and swear at in anger because I’m the parent who stayed and I’m the parent who won’t turn my back on them.

When they say something hurtful, I tell them calmly they have upset me and remove myself from the situation until they are ready to talk calmly to me.

3. They will come back, I promise.

One day your child is the apple of your eye, and you do everything together. The next day, and for the next million years, it feels like an alien has set up shop inside your kid.

It’s heartbreaking to feel them pull away from you and develop their own identity. They rebel and push boundaries and it’s definitely okay to not like them when they’re acting like this (we always love our kids, but not always their behaviour).

But they will come back.

** STORYTIME **

My middle child, who is now 20, was a terror. He got in with a group of older kids who liked breaking the law and he was arrested when he was 16. Now, I had a choice. I could swoop in there and rescue my kid in a coddling, overbearing protective parent manner or I could let the chips fall.

I chose to let them fall.

My child had participated in a crime, and I wasn’t going to get him out of it. I went with him for interviews and cautions and juvenile justice meetings, silently sitting in the background as he faced the consequences.

Had he been innocent, this would be a different story altogether (mama bear mode activated). It was hard for me to NOT internalise his actions and blame myself. But, after talking to a therapist, I realised I did my best.

As he grew, I gave him the best examples and taught him how to make good choices. His bad choices were his bad choices and not a reflection of my parenting.

Now, he’s mature and responsible and has stayed out of trouble since that incident. He chose to stay away from that group of older kids and that is someone I’m so proud of. He definitely didn’t thank me for not stepping in at the time, but now he realises I was right in my approach.

4. Self-care is your best friend.

You can’t fill the cups of your family if yours is running on fumes. Make time for yourself and don’t let anyone take it away from you.

Do you want ten minutes to enjoy a cup of coffee? Take it. Let chaos reign around you.

Schedule time to get your hair done, nails done, meet a friend for coffee or take yourself to the movies. Buy a book you’ve been waiting on and, let the teenagers look after themselves for the weekend and read the whole book if you want.

Whatever it is you need to do to feel human again, do it.

Self-care is so important as a general life rule, but even more so when you are caring for others. If you feel your balloon deflating, it’s okay to ask for help. If nothing else, that’s the best piece of advice I can give. It is okay to ask for help.

5. You are doing great.

We don’t hear it often enough.

But you are doing amazing. Your family is lucky to have you and you should be very proud of yourself.

Read that again. And again.

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Avatar of Tina Evans

Tina Evans is a complete introvert, an avid reader of romance novels, horror novels and psychological thrillers. She’s a writer, movie viewer, and manager of the house menagerie: three kelpies, one cat, a fish, and a snake. She loves baking and cooking and using her kids as guinea pigs. She was a teenage parent and has learned a lot in twenty-three years of parenting. Tina loves Christmas and would love to experience a white Christmas once in her life. Aside from writing romance novels, she is passionate about feminism, equality, sci-fi, action movies and doing her part to help the planet.

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