The struggle bus has managed to swoop me up into its motion and take over! Now, I do not want to scare you young mom’s out there, but you have not seen struggle until your darling hits the magic age of 13! You will ask yourself several times, “Where did my little angel go?” in various forms and at various times.
So, when you have had the repeated sleepless night, you have the same clothes on for 2 days, well, there will be a different kind of struggle in the future. Teenagers are the equivalent of a two year old who asks why, why not, and add an additional, that’s not fair. The worst part, you can excuse a two year old for they know not what they do, just remember always, a teen’s brain is still developing.
I am still in the mix of all of this, but here are some tips that may help:
1 – It is ok to say no.
No to the smart phone, no to the everyday all day entertainment with their friends, no to sleep overs and whatever else you really think is a bad idea. Your ultimate job is to parent and not be their best friend. That will be in the cards when they are grown-up and have children of their own.
2 – Be on the same page as your partner.
And if you are a single parent, stay true to your convictions. The worst scenario is when a teen plays one parent against another. Unite and conquer is the best avenue.
3 – Driving is a good thing.
I know you are shuddering at the thought of your baby driving a car. It will be ok. Baby steps. I have had one teen who could not wait to drive and the other; well she could really care less. It is not on her agenda. The problem with the non-driving teen is that you are the Uber driver and it ends up really being a pain in the backside. Did I mention, there is no pay for this job?
4 – Family comes first.
Go back to your goals when you made that decision to have babies. What was the most important thing? FAMILY, yes, that is right, family. Do not stray from that objective. This is what keeps you grounded and helps with #1, the ability to say no. Be a broken record with your teen, family is first and if the week’s events are taking too much away from family, then subtract an event.
5 – Balance is key.
You want to have time for family but you will want your teen engaged so that they do not have too much time on their hands. There is a saying that “Idle hands are the devils workshop” Proverbs 16:27. This is very true.
Go back to #4 and re-examine the goals of your family. If Sunday’s are important, then that day is off the table for friends and work. Our rule has been for one activity each semester. That worked well in middle school but along came high school. The kids enjoy athletics and the teen girl is involved in FCCLA. This has been a time consuming commitment, but along with it has been a recognizable growth as a leader. Being involved in FCCLA may also lend itself to scholarship opportunities when looking at a bigger picture.
6 – Evaluate work when your teen is old enough.
The simple soft skills of being there dressed appropriately and on time, ready to work are things that are missing in schools. Your teen will have an edge if they do have a job experience to go along with their academics. This goes back to #5 and that balance that is vital. If your teen struggles in school and the grades are not in a good direction, then employment is probably not a good answer. Maybe the answer is that the employment is on weekends only, or maybe not at all. Each teen is different. I do find that kids who have worked tend to have better grades and coping skills when they begin college.
7 – Social Media, to be or not to be, that is the question.
This is a tough area. We are delusional parents if we think by saying no to this that our teen will accept no and move on. Nope, not happening! My wake-up call was that teachers utilize forms of social media: texting, Facebook, Instagram, and my all-time favorite (sarcasm alert!) Snap Chat as a means of communication. The key here is the oversite with your teen. Have conversations; ask them whom they are communicating with and about what.
To a certain extent, I believe that by the time your teen is 16, they should have a foundation of what your family is ok with and what they are not ok with. In addition, there is a time for social media and a time for no social media. Adults need to also put down your smart phone, tablets, and have real time conversations with your teens. I have had my teens to ask me to put it down and that is my wake -up call that I need to practice what I preach.
As a team, you and your partner in crime will have to decide the appropriate age for all of this. If you are a single parent, you decide and stick with the plan. Make the plan regardless of family make-up clear and concise.
8 – Relax.
Again, the foundation of expectations for behavior is from birth until this time of their life. By this time, they know right from wrong. In some cases, we shelter too much and do not allow our kids to make mistakes. The best time for mistakes is under the guidance of you the parent.
9 – Do not try to be the cool parent.
You know the one who dresses like a teen, listens to their music and allows them to do whatever they want to. This is not what they need. Be a parent who is active but one who is there to guide and be the sage on the stage that gives advice as warranted.
10 – Enjoy this time the same way you enjoyed all of the other stages!
This is such an amazing time. You see the outcome of all the nights you stayed up rocking your baby, feeding your baby, kissing boo boos and everything else that comes with parenting. The feeling of taking your teen on a college visit is truly indescribable. They have the whole world ahead of them and it is because of you that they are here and they are moving forward for their own beautiful life.
Always remember, teens are still maturing with their brains and along with that their emotions and their heart. Be an active parent. Know when to be in the mix, know when to step back. Do not be afraid to say no to things. The struggle bus may seem to be a never-ending ride to nowhere but along the way, there is joy and satisfaction that you have done a good job.