Let me say it first: I LIKE teenagers. I genuinely do! The determination not to be defined by a parents’ expectations. Creative hairstyles and infrequent showers. Loud music with incomprehensible lyrics. Conversations in monosyllables and the Power of Peers. Infrequent mushy moments and frequent arguments that would make a seasoned lawyer proud. Fearless risk-taking and fumbling attempts at defining who they are and what they stand for.
I LIKE teenagers. And there were days when mine were teens that I wished for a Dislike button! If you’re parenting teenagers you know what I mean. Sometimes you wish you could just click that Dislike button and let everyone know you’re having one of those days with your teen. A day that they push all your buttons and you can’t quite hold it all together.
Parenting Teens – The Reality
I have been reading a lot of mail lately from moms and dads of teenagers. You are telling me that you love your teens intensely. And, that you are tired. You’re tired of the arguments, the risk taking, trying to combat the peer pressure and media overload your teen seems to listen to without protest. Some of you are describing teen behavior that is pretty extreme, that discourages you and makes you feel angry and helpless. Some of you are dealing with an “other” parent who makes things much harder. Some of your teens are battling against addictions, facing mental illness, or experimenting with sexual activity. Whether or not your family life is one of extreme dysfunction, or the everyday variety of teen angst, you are telling me how overwhelmed you feel, and sad, and angry, and just plain tired… AND then you feel guilty.
What to do when you dislike your teen?
It is inevitable, you know. I have yet to meet a parent who always likes their teenager, even in the most put-together of families. Did you think it was only you? That you were unique? That there was something wrong with you if you felt angry, sad, drained, disappointed and/or guilty? Somehow we have bought the myth that there’s something wrong with us as parents if we admit we don’t constantly and continually like our children.
Come join the Reality Club for parents of teenagers. It’s a big club, but the parents who belong and know they belong are far fewer. And the one very most important thing to remember is that here you can admit you dislike your teen today. Here you are powerfully not alone. Here you will be heard, gently supported, and sent out with strategies to make it through the next moment.
Here you can press the Dislike button as often as you need to. Because being real here, leaves you with more emotional resources to cope with your teen – that you love, even when you dislike!
Here are some strategies that will help you keep your sanity intact while you wait out these super-stressful years of having a teenager:
If you pretend you don’t ever dislike your teen, the emotion will reach out and bite you when you least expect it. Have a place to be real.
For every time your teen’s behavior angers you, disappoints you, or sends you spiraling into despair, find one positive thing to express to your teen. If your teen is in the habit of not sticking around to hear what you have to say, write it down.
Get clear in your own mind on the difference between denial (a really bad idea) and acting your way to a new way of relating with your teen (a really good idea).
If you’ve gotten stuck in an antagonistic relationship with your teen, STOP! Bad habits can be changed – it just takes effort and time. Your determination is vital.
Make yourself talk softly even when you don’t feel like it.
Make yourself pick up the phone or go for a short walk rather than do an “emotional dump” on your teen.
Keep a journal of the good stuff. Believe me, there will be days that you’ll need to read it.
Choose your battles. Choose three things that you are willing to remain unmoving on, regardless of the creative ways your teen challenges you.
Choosing consequences ahead of time and refusing to change your mind will help both you and your teen feel more secure. Just remember that your teen will likely not ever express to you how good that makes them feel!
You can still be happy. Even on the days when your teen is pushing all your “buttons”, you can enjoy your day, and even your interaction with them. It doesn’t mean you don’t feel angry, sad, overwhelmed and/or guilty. It simply means there is more to who you are than those emotions.
Have some parents in your support network who are a little farther along on this journey. Other parents of teens will understand you, but may not have any extra emotional energy to give you. Parents who have survived the “raising teens” experience are great at sharing with you their hope.
So go ahead. Join the Reality Club for parents of teens. The next time your teen pushes your buttons, go ahead and push the Dislike button. Then let us know whether you need to rant, or need a gentle hug. Either way, you are not alone, and there is always HOPE.
Ronae Jull writes as the HOPE Coach, working with parents of teenagers to find solutions to those tough parenting issues most families struggle with as their kids face adolescence. Having raised four children to adulthood and worked with families for more than 20 years, Ronae is convinced about the fact that there is always hope, even when families come from severe dysfunction.
Ronae’s book, A BIGGER BAND-AID: HOPE FOR PARENTS ABUSED AS CHILDREN is a practical healing strategy for any parent who experienced their own abuse as a child.
“After experiencing severe abuse during my own childhood, I was determined to make a better life for my children. Yet I found myself repeating some of the same mistakes my own parents made with me. This book is your road map; following the steps outlined in this book will give you your life back, and enable you to be the parent you always hoped you would be without being controlled by your past.”