One of my earliest memories of being a mom was being a pregnant 22 year old newlywed; a very good friend asked me if I was afraid to have a baby. I clearly remember my answer too; ”I’m not afraid to have a baby but ask me again in 13 years and see what my answer is then.”
It has been just over 16 years since that question was first asked and I still maintain that the teen years are the toughest.
When your children are small it is easy, you are the centre of their world and it is easy to control their environment. You can pick and choose all the minute details of their lives and can protect them from most of the dangers of the world. When you have a teenager, all bets are off. They have their own ideas and you have to let them make their own decisions. Nothing is more difficult during this time than being the mother of a daughter…
I have three daughters, and one who is currently a teenager. I am very lucky as Alaya is a really good kid, she’s a good student, she doesn’t break curfew and she loves her family. Alaya and I have a good relationship, don’t get me wrong, we definitely have our issues, we are both stubborn and pig headed and aren’t afraid to express our opinions but we can talk about our lives and share information. Sometimes, I know more about what’s going on with her friends than I really wanted to know! The most common question I get from her friends’ parents is “How did you manage to raise such a great kid?” I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this and I keep coming back to a few things that I used as guidelines. Some came directly from my parents and some I had to learn the hard way.
- Let them be their own person. Even though Alaya is my child, she is her own person who needs to make her own decisions and I need to respect them whether I like them or not.
- Trust is important. If there is honest communication between both parties it makes the teen years much easier. It won’t work if it is only one sided. If she can’t trust me to tell her the truth, she won’t trust enough to tell me the truth.
- Rules are set for a reason and need to be respected but that doesn’t mean that you can’t entertain reasonable concessions. Teens respect rules a lot more when they have a chance to participate in the making of them. There will always be some non-negotiable but allow them to express their opinions.
- Let them make their own mistakes. It is okay, and in fact beneficial, to let them make mistakes and have to find a way out of them. It is easy to try and have them learn from your mistakes but they get a lot more out of having to pick themselves up and dust themselves off. The sooner they learn that actions have consequences, the easier their (and your) live will be.
- Pick your battles. As parents we are told this one from the very beginning but it is never more important than when you have a teen. They are stuck between being a child and being an adult and need to be able to express themselves. Less face it, green hair or a belly button ring are not life altering decisions.
- Learn to listen. It is so easy to talk over them and tell them how it was back in the day but if you don’t listen they will stop talking. You will never be able to have a successful relationship with a teen, if they think you don’t care about what they are telling you. They need to be able to come to you when things get tough and complicated. Open lines are communication are so very important.
I know that there will be new lessons along the way for both of us, some that will be easy and some that will be painful, but if I could go back I’d tell the 22 year old me that she’ll be fine and will manage to find a way through the her daughter’s teen years. At least so far.