Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Parenting a Teenager

So, if we're friends on social media, you may have witnessed a little pity party by me this week.  Yes, I was feeling sorry for myself as a parent.  Truth of the matter is, I've been here before...  and while I thought it was just circumstances surrounding raising my eldest child (with a former ex), it turns out...  it was just about raising a TEENAGER.  Period.  And although I thought that I had clearly learned something from raising the first one, I'm not sure there's a manual to get through each year of each subsequent teen.  If I''m counting, I've got at least 5-7 more years of this ahead of me!

Many friends reached out when I asked for a virtual hug yesterday...  for that I am grateful.  thank you!!

I know I am not alone, regardless of circumstance or issue.  It takes a village.  We learn from one another and share in sorrows in successes, right?

And then a friend sent me an article that made it all sink in.  Reality.  In someone else's words.  I'm not alone (I knew this) in these struggles.  But to read it, and see a recent poll with findings on the subject...  well, that just opens up the world of possibilities once again.  A few excerpts below resonated with me in a way that calmed my racing heart.  I am not alone.  It's not me (or us) who are failing as parents.  Not even the collective we have the answers to raising a teenager.

"Once, I controlled the big decisions in their life," says Zeise, 39, who lives in Columbia, S.C. "Now they make decisions that can have drastic consequences. I feel like I am running out of time to teach them the important lessons they need," she writes.

How do we know we're teaching them the lessons that will stick?  If they're not responding or communicating, can we only assume?  hope?  Letting them gain wings of independence is scary.

This constant questioning and challenging can be stressful for parents, of course, but Palmiter says it's actually a healthy part of growing up, and it often means parents are doing everything right. 
And there were many late nights for Myers because, like many parents, she just couldn't fall asleep until she knew Kamron was safely home.

Sleep?  Don't' even get me started.  My FitBit can attest to the fact that I am never going to be one of those parents who can fall off into blissful sleep while their child isn't under rooftop.  My other half has absolutely no problem with that...  guess we're just wired differently?  or is it a feature of a Mom?  I don't know.  Try as I might, even with the occasional TylenolPM {don't judge}, I still cannot sleep until I know he's somewhere safe or in bed.

What's the right way to parent?  Who is to say there is a right or wrong way to a parenting style?  What's your parenting style?  Haven't we all be raised by someone(s) who have done it right, or needed some help, and haven't we taken bits and pieces of our own upbringing to model what WE will do to raise the next generation?!  I'm doing my best to find the right way to raise my children, our children, the future generation of boys.  I believe that my parenting style falls somewhere between the right-hand side of this grid.

Many psychologists say the best parents can do is making sure they have instilled positive values in their children and then just hope for the best.
hope?    Many psychologists [with many degrees] don't offer any other advice?  Sure they do. A plethora of "how to" books are available to read, appointments with aforementioned psychologists can be made, and apparently a sprinkle of hope for good measure doesn't hurt either.

Bottom line - some measurement of success - how do we know we've instilled positive values?   Appropriate positive feedback from other parents, teachers and friends who know our children, right? Grades on report cards.  Success in activities and sports.  Bonded friendships with like-minded kids in their peer groups.  I would surely hope that we're doing something right.  At least I believe that we have done just that with maboys still in our care.  So I can take a little respite and breathe a sigh of relief on the feedback received to-date.

As for dealing with their own stress, Palmiter suggests parents seek support from other parents [emphasis mine], not just about their concerns but also about decisions. He also promotes special "one on one" time with your teenager. This means "being there" completely, cellphone unplugged, talking with your teen or observing them do an activity they enjoy like drawing, shooting basketball or playing an instrument. Just one hour a week of this special time can repair major differences, Palmiter says, and bring much-needed calm to households with teens.
Many girlfriends can attest to the fact that I have sought their support and advice. Many times over the years. I've even been able to advise on some occasions as well, I guess. We're there for one another, right? In this together?  Case in point [pity party on F@cebook] and asking for help, albeit vague, to just get through another day without completly losing it.  Sometimes that is just what I need. A collective sigh of relief.  A knowing smile or hug.  Mix in some room for coffee or a glass of wine while seeking aforementioned support...  occasionally, yes, and I hope that my kids don't come out of this forray into parenting all screwed up.  My one goal.  Well, a parenting through the teenage years goal anyway.

I've also done my best to spend one on one time with each of my boys.  I take advantage of time in the car, even on short trips, to ask about their day.  I take them to special events.  I am seeking to instill positive parenting, independence and growth, every step of the way.

©shel silverstein
©shel silverstein

So...  here I am.
A new day.
Hanging onto
the knot
at the
of my rope
tied yesterday;
I've climbed
 halfway back up,
with the support of friends
who care...
and I boldly leap
 another evening
of parenting my teens!

Now off to the 4th lacrosse game of the week.


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