The TEEN years are a bumpy time, there is no doubt about it.
But, I’m of the strong belief that what makes it so bumpy is a Parent’s inability to see the teen as they are, rise above the drama and guide them through the murky world of hormones, social life, school and life calmly and with some grace and dignity.
The teen ‘nightmare’ has more to do with how the parent responds to a teens natural tendency to be a risk taker, challenge authority, flex their independence muscles, be invincible and absolutely RIGHT about every thing. It’s a two way street, and I think it is good for both parents AND their teens to understand that this process is hard on us all. It’s an initiation into adulthood, and it can challenge us to the core – some compassion and understanding is required, as well as some… ahem, balls of steel, because you will be called upon to use those said balls, many, many times.
Parenting a teen is a whole lot different then parenting a toddler or a child – personally, I prefer the teen years – call me crazy, but I find they are so intelligent, fearless and becoming so STRONG within themselves – it inspires me. And, I think that is where the difference lies. I am inspired by my daughter and her crazy teen ‘ness’ – So it scares me yes, but it invigorates me as well. My first daughter was a different experience, but she was different through all the steps of childhood. Each child will need different things – no two are alike. My first daughter didn’t even go through the ‘terrible two’s‘ – I used to wonder what everyone was lamenting about, and then I thought that I must be a really awesome parent – until my second was born. She fully made up for any illusions of amazingness I had, and I was back to questioning every parenting decision I made and worrying myself sick.
There are some things I have learned on this journey that go against our natural instincts as parents sometimes, and it challenges the ‘worry brain’ endlessly – but in order for your teen daughter to grow up to be a strong, independent, fully functioning adult, she will have to make the epic journey through the ‘teenage wasteland‘, battle demons, get lost, be imprisoned, break free and eventually find herself in her 20’s with a whole new set of issues to deal with. Our job is to be their friends, their supporters, their biggest fans and their guides. We are to somehow navigate both ‘friend’ and ‘disciplinary’ at the same time while maintaining their respect and keeping their lust for life intact. It’s an incredibly complex dance of love – but it’s really not that hard if you learn to see them as the miracles they are and show them respect and compassion. Accept who they are fully, both the light and the dark – no matter how scary it can be at times.
I like to tell my kids that they are version 2.5 – part of me, but better than me. As a single mom I’ve shared my mistakes with them openly and they’ve told me it’s made a big difference to them – they’ve been able to see me navigate life and make choices and sometimes fail – but failure only gets you if you give up – otherwise it is your best friend.
So – how DO you get through this time? Start by ensuring you say these things to you daughter – say them, and mean them.
As a parent of a wild and wonderful teenage daughter there are 12 things they really need to hear from you
- JUST BE YOURSELF – It’s a wild and crazy world out there, and the temptation to ‘fit in’ can be overpowering. As adults we can even struggle with this one. Give your daughter a leg up in the world and teach her this early. Let her explore all facets of herself and don’t fear them – really, it’s most important that you LET her be herself when she is being herself, just talking about it will surely get you a door slam or three. Allow her to be all that she is, and encourage all parts of her – dark and light.
- I LOVE YOU NO MATTER WHAT – Especially when she is just being herself. Show her your love will never go anywhere, and you won’t punish her by taking away your love ( passive aggressive) No matter what she does or doesn’t do, you will always be there when she needs you. This is so important for building trust – NOTHING is bad enough to warrant the cold shoulder with your teen child.
- I’M SORRY – teens are little people, and when you show them respect they are more likely to give it back. When you’ve done wrong by your teen, apologize. It also teaches them to do the same in the relationships they foster on their own.
- YOUR FAMILY HAS GOT YOUR BACK – Community is so important – your daughter needs to know that as a family you have got her back, that no matter what happens, you are on her team. This will teach her trust and will also give her a strong foundation in which to explore the world.
- YOU ARE ENOUGH – complimentary to ‘Be yourself’ but different. As we grow, we learn and what we don’t know now, we’ll know later. Failure and mistakes are as much a part of life as success is. In fact, if you don’t fail, you won’t grow. Failure is incredibly important to succeed. Let your daughter know that wherever she is, whatever struggle she is going through, she is enough.
- YOU ARE NOT ALONE – sometimes even when we are surrounded by people we can feel very alone. Teens feel this more than that – it’s important to acknowledge their feelings, but also let her know she is not alone in this world. She may not look like she hears it, but she does. Don’t stop saying it.
- YOU ARE AMAZING!– Let her see your awe for her and her skills and talents. She may have your amazing eyes, and your quick wit, but she also has her fathers hair and long legs. BUT she is a unique human being with her own special bits and pieces. Let her know you respect her and love her for who SHE is. For a teen, knowing your parents respect you is probably one of the most important things you can do for them.
- ITS OK TO WALK AWAY – toxic people and toxic relationships do exist. It is particularly difficult when those toxic peeps are a parent of your daughter. In our situation, my daughters father has re-married and his relationship with her is quite toxic. This situation has been a catch 22 for me. I want her to have a relationship with her Father, but I also want her to learn that emotional abuse, neglect and manipulation are NOT OK. I’ve done my best to turn these situations into teaching opportunities – for both of us. I didn’t learn that lesson until well into my adulthood, and I’d prefer my daughter know it sooner. It’s something we have in her ‘toolbox’ – know when people are toxic and leave them, if they are Family, set clear boundaries and just KNOW yourself that they create drama and don’t get caught up in it.
- LETS GO GET A PEDICURE! – Hang out with your teen and do fun things together. She may roll her eyes, but I doubt it, she’ll be excited about it and enjoy every minute. It’s up to you to lead your relationship in these years, so treat it as a friendship – you remember to ask your friends out periodically, be sure to do the same with your daughter. Leave the homework, chores and house routines at home and go have some fun.
- YOU ARE A GODDAMN WARRIOR! – Why would I raise a dainty lady of the world when I can raise a Warrior? Perhaps it is our viking blood speaking, but I put my nose up to all the ‘girly’ stuff and as a teen myself I was called ‘tomboy’ so many times. I’d rather my daughter know that she is a warrior, AND fully female in EVERY way. Being feminine does not mean taking shit – it’s something I am so adamant about. It gives my daughter strength and power, it gives her a place to draw from when the world tries to attack. Empowering my daughter to be strong is the best gift I can give her. Her Father once said to her right in front of me: “Don’t let your Mother teach you misguided feminine power” – I’ve never seen my daughter so angry. I won’t go into what ‘HE’ did there, but what’s important to me is that she learn how to face a world that will talk to her like that, ignore it and STILL walk with fire coming out in front of her.
- I WILL LISTEN TO YOU – Listening takes skill, so if you aren’t good at it, get good at it. Listening as a parent can be bloody hard. You have to remove yourself from ‘parent land’ long enough to listen to your teen daughter tell you stories that make your blood boil, your worry brain have a heart attack and your nerves bundle up and explode – it can be extremely difficult to just LISTEN and not start lecturing. But, listening is what she needs. When she has shared her struggle, THEN you can ask she wants your help. Be prepared for a NO. If that happens, leave her alone. Yes, that’s right – LEAVE HER ALONE. If you don’t respect her boundaries, how will she learn how to respect others boundaries and how to have her own healthy boundaries? Right? It’s all about the actions, and owning the shit you say to your daughter is harder than most parents can handle, but it’s the only way she’ll listen to a damn word you say. LEAD by example.
- NEVER MIND EVERYTHING I JUST SAID, I’LL SHOW IT TO YOU IN MY ACTIONS – Your daughter can see right through your bullshit, you might as well get ok with that now and drop the crap. Your teen will be looking for your authenticity, your real and your ACTIONS. Nothing in the list above means anything without action behind it. Without the intent, they are just words, and there is nothing more devastating to a teen than a parent who doesn’t practice what they preach – she will lose respect for you, you can count on it. This is hands down, the MOST important thing you can do for your teen.
Your daughter is looking to you to learn how to be an Adult and you may not even be fully grown up and Adult yet yourself. It’s time to grow up and start taking responsibility for teaching this human how to live in this world. Give her the tools she needs and the love she craves to confidently set out on that nightmarish journey through teen land and come out the other side intact.
Never forget that YOU lead everything. When teens act out, it is usually because you aren’t fully owning your own stuff. You don’t control them, they come ‘through you’ but they are the best damn mirrors out there for you to see your own shit and finally deal with it. There is no better time than during the teen crisis. You’ll falter, you’ll fail, but if you are real, you’ll fail with grace and your daughter will respect you even more because of it!
Good luck to you! Blessed be and stay REAL!