This is for the mom whose kid stayed out past curfew last night and never checked in.
This is for the dad whose daughter slammed her door after you asked her to pick up her shoes.
This is for the parents whose teen won’t come out of their room, won’t talk to them, or refuses to put down their phone, This is for the ones whose big kid may have lied to their face or got caught doing something wrong or doesn’t have an interest in anything.
Hear me when I say this: Whatever you are going through with your big kid right now, you are not a failure; You’re just raising teenagers.
Teenagers who are trying to navigate a complex world and don’t have the communication or emotional skills yet to process what is happening around them.
Teenagers who are challenging boundaries as they seek their independence.
Teenagers who may be stressed to the max with social problems, academics, and what they will do next.
Teenagers who don’t get enough sleep, are managing mental health challenges and live in fear of the world around them.
Teenagers who still love their parents, but want some control over their lives.
We are not our teenager’s choices.
Hear me when I say this. You are not a failure.
You are carving out a new type of relationship with your adolescent child who is trying to figure out who they are. They’re trying on different personalities and styles and interests. They’re deciding who to hang out with, who makes them feel safe, what they feel comfortable doing. They are finding their place in this world without you as the center of it.
And this means they will make bad choices and mistakes and maybe even say some awful things.
But this doesn’t mean you are failing as a parent. It means you are parenting a teenager and doing the best you can with the information you have at this moment.
Remember, parenting is a long game. Play chess, not checkers.
You are not the only one going through something with your teen
While it can be challenging and lonely, know you are not alone. So many of us are feeling it–and we don’t see you failing; we see you trying. And that is something.
But what I want you to remember, what I hope gets you through these long days, is that as long as you both have breath in your body and love in your hearts, you can work on the relationship with your child.
If you dig deep. If you work on your responses. If you understand your triggers. If you set boundaries. If you love your kid hard and love yourself harder.
You can move forward, and that feels so much better.
I feel you on this, but please take this to heart.
You are not a failure. You’re just the parent of a teenager.
You got this.
Five simple things you can do today to improve the relationship with your teenager
Sometimes we need a quick mind shift to help us get through a trying time with our teenager. Here are five easy things you can do to reframe your relationship.
Sometimes we get in a rut with our teens and we get caught in a cycle of nagging and criticizing. Simply saying out loud or writing down the things that we love about our teens can help us focus on their positive attributes instead of their actions that are bothering us.
2. Give them space and grace.
It’s so easy to get upset about every little thing your teen does, especially when you feel hurt or desperately want to help them, but the truth is, they need their space to figure it out on their own. We can’t take every move they make personally.
Give them space and grace. This may mean giving up on a family dinner for a few nights or ignoring the snarky remark or even enduring a few painful days where you wonder what is going on behind that closed bedroom door. It might mean waiting for them to come you, even if you feel like they never will. When they have the time to process and if you stay available, chances are they will start coming to you to vent or see your presence as a safe space to hang out when they are feeling down.
3. Don’t respond in kind, be kind.
It’s hard when the person we love the most brings out our worst. When your teen lashes out or does something to disappoint you and doesn’t seem to care, it may tempt you to lose your cool at them to underscore how upset you are. Or, you may lose it because you are just at the end of your rope (been there, done that.)
Instead, consider doing something kind for them. This doesn’t mean letting them use you as a doormat and be their maid and ATM, but it does mean you are showing your teen you are there for them no matter what. It’s not a reward for bad behavior but a reminder that you love them, even when they make a mistake, even when they are unkind, even when they know they’ve disappointed you.
4. Stay out in the open
When your teen spends all their time in their bedroom, it is easy to start isolating yourself in your own part of the house. Instead, try to stay in the common areas, like the kitchen or living room. Sometimes, your presence is all your teen needs to feel safe and comforted in a chaotic world. Also, you never know when they may come down for a snack and plop down next to you. That could be when you have the best talks.
5. Take care of yourself.
When we are mentally run down and exhausted, it can be tough to be patient, kind, and loving. If you feel like you are constantly battling with your teen, take a moment to do something to bring peace to yourself. Taking a short walk, breathing exercises, exercise, meditation, or even reading for fifteen minutes can calm your nervous system so you can approach the situation from a fresh perspective.
Are you looking for more encouragement for raising your teens and tweens?
Check out this book, Loving Hard When They’re Hard to Love, by the co-owner of Parenting Teens & Tweens, Whitney Fleming. The book contains 55 relatable essays about raising tweens and teens in today’s modern and chaotic world.