An Essay: On Parenting Teens

Writing about teenagers as the parent of teenagers seems like a PRO TIPS thing to do… right?

An Essay: On Parenting Teens

One would think those who have survived/are surviving the hustle of parenting teens… those folks would be fully equipped to take on the challenge… share wisdom, co-lament, etc…

Heck, I’m three deep. Currently, alllllll of my children are TEENAGERS…  and I share A LOT online… but when it comes down to it (on the topic of parenting teens) I keep my own cards close.

But whyyyyyy???

Grab a cup of coffee, sit down, and let’s crack this open.

I started blogging before my youngest was still yet-to-be-conceived. Back then I lamented FREELY AND GLADLY. I bemoaned the wiles of parenting babies, then moved on to toddler issues, and potty training issues, culminating in wailing and gnashing of teeth over Common Core elementary math.

Common Core Math homework. I may never recover from that trauma. But I digress.

Back in the day I shared about blowouts, nap times, the cute things my kids were saying, and the struggle of containing the energy of small humans…

Oh how I sometimes long for the days when that energy could be strapped down in two clicks of a five point harness!!!

We bloggers LOOOOOOVE sharing all of that adorable baby/toddle/little kids stuff. That material is gold – PURE GOLD. I’ve sometimes found myself wondering if some bloggers keep having babies just to keep that golden material rolling.

I’m serious.

I am grateful there are no more diaper blowouts at my house.

But there are other things.

  • There are definitely blow-UPS
  • My kids still say hilarious things
  • They still say profound things
  • And then sometimes they are locked up in their rooms and say nothing at all
  • Heh. Years ago there were times I BEGGED THE LORD for them to just. stop. talking!
  • The push and push and push and push – testing the limits of our boundaries and our tempers on issues with potential consequences that have a much higher price tag.
  • Aaaaand my kids are brilliant. And awesome. And…
  • did I just tell the internet too much?

Here’s the rub around publishing Cautionary Tales of Parenting Teens on the internet while still parenting teens:

  • Teens don’t want adults sharing their business online (nor offline for that matter)
  • Related: I don’t want my teens sharing MY business… how many eye-rolls do I miss thanks to that social media devil, Snapchat???
  • Related: Snapchat can be a great place to meet your teen where he/she is at, btw… *raises fist at irony*
  • The hard-earned trust between teens and parents is sacred
  • We (adults) know better than to share too much, so being the good example-setters that we are, we refrain. Hopefully. 

I tell ya what… let’s just list some of the topics a parent of teens might expose/share about.

An Essay: On Parenting Teens #parenting #teens #parentingteens

The Incomplete List:

  • Communication (ok, that’s pretty benign… this is going to be easy!)
  • Sex (well, that easy streak was short-lived)
  • Drugs
  • Alcohol
  • Community (you are with who you surround yourself)
  • Periods 
  • Hormones
  • The teen brain/development
  • Shaving
  • Bullying
  • Terrible teachers
  • Awesome teachers
  • Sports/coaches
  • Social media
  • Social media
  • Social media
  • College, career, SATs, job training…
  • The pressure of above
  • Especially senior year (see above)
  • Driving
  • Enforcing new driver rules
  • Curfew
  • Car accidents
  • Mean girls
  • Mean guys
  • Suicide
  • Drinking
  • Identity
  • Vaping
  • Violence
  • Death
  • Break-ups
  • Self-harm
  • First job
  • Babysitting safety
  • IEPs and 504s
  • Overachievers
  • Jealousy of those with overachievers
  • Piercings
  • Tattoos
  • Financial responsibility
  • Chores
  • Allowance
  • Faith
  • Fear
  • and on and on and on

Clearly there is PLENTY to lament write about. 

Related: if you are reading this and your kids are not yet teens…. LOOK HOW MUCH YOU HAVE TO LOOK FORWARD TO!

The reason I am qualified to share this list is…

I have the stories of the lives of my kids. MY teens.

Disclosure: I am “qualified” on an experience level, not based on success.

OK, maybe a little success.

But also a lot of not success.

All of those bullet points above lead me to this next question:

To what extent should I/we share?

The experiences and street cred I have are 100% because of my kids… because of our journey through all of those bullet points, and then some.

Sharing about parenting through the teens years has been hard for me because I struggle to separate the stories from the people/my teens.

We are surviving, even thriving through hormones, periods, mean girls, power struggles, anxiety, car accidents, loss, bedroom searches, phone checks, chores, humor, terrible teachers, hectic schedules, unsure futures, and late bedtimes.

And a mom who tries not to yell, but always has.

How are we making it?

Thereby the grace of God, most days.

When people compliment my parenting I tell them

“I won’t take the blame, so I can’t take the credit.”

And in that statement I, again, protect myself.

Those folks don’t see the yelling, the guilt, the anger, the every-good-reason-in-the-world why – at the fault of only myself – my children would benefit from a lifetime of therapy.

Thereby the grace of God.

…and the bond of family, and an ever-flowing expression of genuine, imperfect love that only a parent can give…offer…. sacrifice.

And really, there is no certifiable, “good reason” or even REASONABLE reason why we fly one day, and fall the next day.

We. 

This parenting teens gig is a total “we” situation. When my teen(s) fly, I fly. When they fall… I do too. 

2 Pieces of Advice from My Own Time in the Trenches

  • Parents… be a PARENT. Their cups are full of peer influence. They need a voice and heart above the noise. A defender. A protector. The external, forced gut-check because their gut (see “brain development” in list above) isn’t quite dialed in just yet.
  • Don’t underestimate the power of an apology. Not from your teen, but from YOU. We are living in our own personal Wild, Wild West as parents of teens. A willingness to apologize, paired with a solid effort to do better can be a game changer. We were all teens once. We could see right through the bullsh*t.

Be the parent. Be open to your own shortcomings.

Friends… Your heart will break. Your heart will ache. Your rage will RAGE.

Your heart will also… EXPLODE with unmeasurable pride and awe! 

OMG MY KID IS SO AMAZING! I WON THE LOTTERY!

I haven’t even been through the half of it.

When they say having a child is like having your heart walk outside your body – that is not an exaggeration.

*insert acknowledgment that I am preaching to the choir*

You know what’s NUTS?!

It doesn’t matter if that heart walking outside your body is now big enough to carry YOU aaaand has to shave every morning. THAT FACE WITH AN EMERGING BEARD IS STILL YOUR BABY.

Parenting teens is some of the hardest work I have ever lived to write about, if not THE hardest. It is also some of the most amazing work I have ever been part of, if not THE most amazing.

There is nothing like it, and each journey is different for each parent and child. Yet, parents, we need to know we are not alone.

Mama, you are not alone.

Dad, you are not alone.

The struggle is real.

And, um… I hear parenting ACTUAL ADULTS is even harder. 

Talk about letting go.

This essay offers no final answer. 

No bookend.

Only, perhaps… solidarity. 

Which to some extent is a good start. Whether your take is “misery loves company” or “it takes a village”, our struggle is not unique. We are not alone.

Your teen is not an animal who hates you.

You are not a failure.

I put this together because I am seeing online, over and over and over, parents of teens asking why we are not writing about this difficult season of parenting. 

This is my answer to that question.

But long term, how do we support this tribe in this season of parenting?

On my Facebook page I asked, “If one were to write about parenting teens,,, what are some issues/topics you would want/expect to see?”

Judging from the comment thread, we really are not alone. Jump in and comment on this post, or on that thread with your topics, thoughts and input on how the we may or may not be supported through resources on the topic of parenting teens:

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2 Responses to “An Essay: On Parenting Teens”

  1. Shauna says:

    You could probably add “depression” to this list – as this affliction seems to affect a great percentage of our teens… and how do we help our child through THAT!

    • Jenny says:

      Absolutely. In my mind that was on the list… obviously that one is HUGE aaand a big part of a lot of the other stuff too. Such a tough topic and reality with so many teens.

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