I always say: Parenting is like a marathon. You’re in it for the long haul.
Day to day in the trenches is hard. I’m right there with you as I have two teens myself. Some days are great and some day I just want to run away. I put together a few tips to help you through.
Parenting Teens Survival Tips:
1. Build a support network. Connect with other parents of teens (you’re in this together). This can be a formal support group, church group, or simply a couple of like-minded co-workers chatting over lunch.
2. Practice self-care. A lot of self-care. Parenting is stressful. You’ll have a much easier time keeping a level-head when you’re taking time for your own happiness and health. It’s also great role modeling. My personal favorite is walking with a girlfriend.
3. Don’t take it personally. Don Miguel Ruiz popularized this important concept in his book The Four Agreements (highly recommend it if you haven’t read it). In the moment that your teen is yelling, “You’re such a f*cking bitch. You’ve ruined my life”, it’s really difficult to remember that it’s not about you. Your job is to not engage and not take the bait. Your teenager’s emotions are like a stampeding elephant. He doesn’t yet have the brain development or the life experience to control them.
4. Have realistic expectations. Nothing will bring you frustration faster than unrealistic expectations. Take into consideration your individual child and appropriate developmental expectations. In 20 years of working with children and families, expectations that are beyond the developmental stage of the child are possibly the biggest contributor to anger, abuse, and strained relationships.
5. Pick your battles. You will drive yourself crazy if you turn every little misdeed into World War III. Try as hard as you can to not comment on your teen’s appearance. It’s very unlikely that any long term harm will come from purple hair, body odor, or greasy hair. Constant criticism about it can cause long term harm to your relationship with your child, however. If you have serious concerns about your teen, get help and remember that the clothes are not the real problem (and changing them will not solve depression, self-esteem, substance abuse, etc).
6. Remember your end goal. Most of us want to raise an independent, self-assured child who is capable to sound decisions, managing emotions, and healthy relationships. In order for this to happen you need to gradually allow your teen to make decisions (and mess up), to explore who she is and what she believes, and pull away from you. In other words, your goal isn’t really for your child to always comply and let you make all the decisions.
I hope these are helpful new ideas or reminders. Please stay in touch by following me on Twitter @SMartinlcsw. I share lots more great content!