My kids are fantastic. I love them dearly, and they are my greatest teachers. Now that I’ve got one leaving the teen years and one just starting high school, I’ve been able to stop for a minute to think about the things I’ve learned so far. One of the best parts of this journey has been to help other parents who are convinced they are the worst parent on the planet, based on the reactions they get from their teens. We need to hold the light for each other.
You are light years from winning the “worst parent of the year” award. The fact is that you are an amazing parent! Look at all you do! Plus, at the end of the day everyone’s still alive, right? So there’s proof positive that you’re doing your job. You can do this!
You are landing head-first into the wild and wooly pre-teen and teen hormone years. That means that some of the most important people in your household are effectively out of their minds. They are ruled by emotion and fueled by hormones.
Things I tell myself when my kids are crazed and bickering at an unbearable level:
- Siblings are incredible gifts to each other.
- They teach each other amazing life lessons.
- It’s critical that they be allowed to do this work.
- It’s their work to do.
- Everyone will survive this.
- This too shall pass.
Here’s what I consider my job to be:
- Making sure everyone’s safe from permanent or debilitating harm.
- Making sure the noise level is at a level I can handle.
- Making sure that the household keeps functioning: laundry gets done, food is available, school is attended, commitments are met, and so on.
- Modeling honesty, kindness, and respect.
How do I do that?
- By taking care of myself.
- Surrounding the family with love.
- Setting boundaries about what’s acceptable and unacceptable behavior.
- Recognizing when everybody’s cranky, and calling it a day (PJ’s by 6!).
- Forcing separations when necessary.
- Keeping them busy with separate jobs! Nothing like good, healthy work to keep kids occupied and focused.
- Spending time with each of them to listen and coach.
- Giving them the tools they need to navigate these goofy years. (Counseling, mentors, and so on)
- Being generous with positive reinforcement.
- Letting go of my expectations for anything other than the bare basics.
- Letting go.
- And if things get totally crazy, I simply leave. I do. I walk out and go to Starbucks. They get the message.
It’s not perfect. Half the time my house looks like a windstorm came through, because it kinda has. That’s OK. That’s not how things are going to be for forever and ever, it’s just the moment that we’re in. I mostly have learned to be kind to myself. Parenting is hard, hard work and it’s not for the meek. The teen years last awhile, so I’ve needed to learn to settle into it and look for those golden moments, because they’re there, too.