I’m not sure what the hardest part is about raising teenagers. The answer is probably different for every parent. But I’ve learned something valuable about the hard part of dealing with their hurtful behaviors.
You know, behaviors like snarky responses to our genuine questions, judgments about our well-meaning actions, and the seemingly overnight transition into someone who appears to despise our very existence. I don’t care how many people warn us about this impending stage, nothing prepares our mom heart for the confusion and hurt that washes up onto the shore of our soul.
I mean, how is it that all the love we have poured into our child from day one— the love they have always welcomed with open arms, suddenly becomes an aggravation and intrusion? How is it that basic questions and requests of them are now acts of war? When did we become the worst person on the planet when just yesterday we were their everything?
All we have to do is think back to when we were teens to find the answers.
It won’t take us long to remember how much we were dealing with internally. Insecurity, confusion, rejection, shame, and loneliness are just a few of the everyday emotions we dealt with while trying to find our way. We wanted nothing more than to belong and to be seen by our peers. To fit in, be enough, and have value. Meanwhile, unruly hormones had their way with us, adding to the daily mix of emotional Armageddon.
When you consider that our peers were dealing with the same mess of feelings—all of us trying to stumble our way through the turmoil, it’s no wonder we struggled to find balance and normalcy and acceptance for who we were, as is. Just like our teens, the upheaval ignited our poor behaviors and hurtful actions toward our parents. They couldn’t possibly understand us when we couldn’t understand ourselves.
The aha moment for me was remembering that my teens were also dealing with these same debilitating emotions and then recognizing that I was actually mirroring similar emotions as a mom. Sobering. And so very human.
When my kids lashed out with disrespect, said very hurtful things, or rejected my love, a slow stream of insecurity, confusion, shame, and unworthiness started to trickle out of my veins. I wanted nothing more than to feel like I still belonged in their world and longed to be seen by my child. I wanted to be enough for them and to have value as their mother.
We all do. That’s the calling card of motherhood.
It’s no wonder the teenage years are wrought with so much tension and inner anguish for parents and children. We are literally walking in each other’s shoes, yet everything feels like we are miles apart. What a paradox.
So, to save us both, I made a mental shift to see my teens as lost souls trying to make sense of a raging sea of uncertainty. Then I gave myself similar grace as I learned to swim in the same murky water.
One of us has to stop identifying our worth based on the behavior of others. And it’s unlikely to be our teen because they are surrounded by peers who are all measuring themselves up against one another. That’s the only thing they know how to do in the trenches of becoming independent and figuring out who they are.
But we can show them another way by doing our best to remain rooted in the truth that we are valuable and worthy just as we are regardless of how our teens act and react toward us. Of course, this is not to say we become doormats and let them get away with blatant disrespect. It’s just that we see through the meanness to the pain lurking underneath and try not to take their wrath personally.
I wish I could say that this new way of looking at things made everything easier for me. The truth is, my kids still lash out and say hurtful things at times even though they are in their 20s, and the sting still hurts. A lot. But the turnaround time on my heartbreak is much better. The other truth is I still act out sometimes even though I’m two months shy of 50. Fear has a way of bringing out the worst in us. The good news is, love has a way of bringing out the best.
May we all do our best to survive the changing tides and find the strength to shine on through the heartache, knowing and trusting that at some point, our teens will push through these waves and find their way to the shore of our love again.
You have my heart…
This was a contributed post from Shelby Spear. Shelby is a sappy soul whisperer, sarcasm aficionado, pro-LOVE Jesus adoring mom of 3 Millennials writing stuff & doing life w/ hubs of 25 yrs. She is the co-author of the book, How Are You Feeling, Momma? (You don’t need to say, “I’m fine.”) You can read her open heart about the revelations, screw-ups, gaffes, and joys of motherhood on her blog shelbyspear.com, around the web, and in print at Guideposts.
Parentings teens is hard, but other parents found these posts helped make things a little easier: