This post: 6 Powerful Truths Every Parent of Teens NEEDS to Hear
You can love your teenager with every fiber in your being and still not be loved back the way you long to.
You can give and give and give and still not be fully appreciated.
You can try to say everything right, do everything right and be everything you think your child needs and still be pegged as the “bad guy.”
You can be warm and kind, forgiving and patient, and still be rejected.
You can long to be with them and ache for them to invite you into their world and they can still shut you out behind a closed bedroom door.
You can go out of your way for them time and time again, make sacrifices they’ll never understand, and let them know in little ways how much they’re loved and still not be truly valued.
It’s easy to think our kids are self-absorbed, entitled, ungrateful beings who simply don’t need us anymore, but having crawled through the trenches of the teen years with my three kids, I’ve realized that there’s more to it than meets the eye…
Before you convince yourself you’ve somehow failed as a parent. Before you wonder where you went wrong. Before you venture down the mindset that your teen may never be truly grateful or that they’ll never fully value the time, effort, and energy you’re putting into raising them right. Before you begin to wonder if you’ve lost your teen forever and that, clearly, they just don’t like you anymore. Before you question yourself or your teen, you need to remember THIS…
Here are powerful truths every parent of teens needs to hear.
6 Powerful Truths Every Parent of Teens NEEDS to Hear
They’re Still Little on the Inside
Even though you’re not looking for a standing ovation at the end of the day, it can be frustrating and disheartening when your constant selflessness seems to go unappreciated or unnoticed by your teen. But here’s what you need to remember… your teenager is still little on the inside.
They may look all grown up with their size 11 shoes, big hands, deep voices, and “I’m all grown up, I don’t need you,” attitude, but they still have SO much growing up to do, so much learning to do and so much maturing to do.
Their “all about themselves,” attitude, their inability to fully recognize all the painstaking sacrifices you make day-in-and-day-out, and their lack of appreciation for keeping a stocked fridge, helping them with their homework or making a late-night run to the office supply store for poster board because they suddenly realized they have a project due in two days, doesn’t mean they’re a horrible child.
By modeling gratefulness, pointing out when you go out of your way for your teen, and asking them for a “thank you,” they’ll eventually become more grateful. Hang in there… typically in late high school or college, your teen will start turning the corner and begin noticing and truly appreciating all that you do.
You’re Their Safe Zone
It’s not that your teen doesn’t like you. It’s not that they’re mad at you. And, it’s certainly not their goal in life to make your life miserable. It’s just that you’re their safe zone. You’re the one person (perhaps along with your spouse/partner) that they can truly be themselves with and who they know will love them no matter what.
Like it or not, you’re on the front lines, which means you’re going to get the brunt of all their emotions (good and bad), all their “I hate having so much homework” outbursts, and “life totally sucks” complaints. And, whether you recognize it or not, it’s exactly where your teen needs you to be.
They need you to brush off their occasional snarky attitude. They need you to listen to all their woes (even when you’ve heard them a million times before). They need you to take the tough days in stride and be there for them – even when they’re not quite so loveable. They need you to be their sounding board so they can vent. They need you to muddle through their teen years right alongside them. When you do, it empowers your child, it makes them feel safe, unconditionally loved, and accepted, and it gives them the strength to wake up and take on another day.
They’re Not Selfish, They’re Self-Searching
My daughter would make herself a grilled cheese sandwich, plop it on a plate, eat it, and walk away without even considering cleaning up her mess. My son would get an Amazon package, rip open the contents and leave the pile of bubble wrap, ripped paper and torn sticky tape on the counter just waiting for the maid (i.e. me) to clean up his mess. For a while, it seemed my kids had blinders on, giving little thought to anyone around them.
Yep, teenagers can be really selfish. But I learned it’s not in a “my kids are total brats kinda way,” but rather, “I’m convinced they can’t help it (right now) kinda way.” It’s a (slightly annoying) phase teenagers go through. In fact, research has shown that it’s actually totally normal for teenagers to go through what’s called a “cocoon phase” where everything is “all about them.”
The good news is, (something I’ve learned from experience), they eventually work their way out of their “oblivious to the rest of the world” stage, after they’ve grown up a bit. With plenty of patience and guidance, they emerge as really cool people who care about you, others, and the world around them.
Teenagers are Really Moody
In the blink of an eye, my kids used to swing from delirious to miserable, excited to angry, content to frustrated.
I felt like a ping pong ball constantly shifting back and forth trying to be a supportive parent regardless of whatever unpredictable, shifting mood they happened to be in on that given day (or moment).
I soon realized that I couldn’t always peg my kids’ moodiness as normal teen angst – sometimes, it was more than that, and I had to dive a little deeper. I also realized that it never served me well to sit beside my kids on their roller coaster of emotions. Remember, roller coasters have highs and lows and they always start and end in the exact same place.
Bottom line, if you find yourself riding the roller coaster of emotions with your teen, jump off. You’ll wear yourself out. Instead, be the steady in their storm and the calm in their “high and lows” chaos. Your goal shouldn’t be to fix their moodiness – it’s a biological thing that takes time to settle down. Your goal should be to help them manage their emotions and love them through it all.
You Can Blame Their Brain for That
The moods, the pushing us away, the testing of our authority… so much of it can be blamed on the massive changes happening in our kids’ bodies and brains. That, combined with the fact that they’re desperately trying to grow up and become independent – all while we tighten our grip because our goal in life is to protect our kids. It’s no wonder there’s friction.
Stop trying to make sense of it all. Stop trying to over-analyze your teen’s moods or need for space or how they choose friends over you or why they’re pushing a few boundaries. It’s all part of the process… the challenging, yet beautiful process of becoming an adult.
Loosen your grip a bit (age-appropriately, of course). Give them the space and grace they need. Guide them through it all (even when they fight you). And, know that with a whole lot of love and patience, you’ll both get through this.
This Won’t Last Forever
I thought the toddler years were tough until that is, I came face-to-face with the teen years. As much as I truly relished so much about helping my kids learn to adult, everything seemed bigger ~ their problems, the consequences of their actions, their emotions, the expectations society placed on them…
Not every season lasts forever. And some seasons will be more treasured than others. But every season produces something precious and wonderful. It won’t be like this forever. One day your moody, self-absorbed, “I need space” teenager will fade into the distance and suddenly, an amazing, caring, appreciative human being will be standing in front of you.
Love them through it all. Hang on for the bumpy ride. And, keep reminding yourself that this too will pass. And, when it does, you’ll look back and smile. You’ll smile because you’ll realize how necessary it was, how beautiful (yet challenging) the journey was, and how well you did.
“When kids reach adolescence, they need more than ever for us to watch over them. Adolescence isn’t about letting go. It’s about hanging on during a very bumpy ride.” ~ Ron Taffel