Today I begin parenting teenagers…….somebody help me!
Today is a momentous day for me. It is the anniversary of when I became a mum, otherwise known as my eldest daughter’s birthday. And this year it seems bigger than normal because she has turned 13.
So now, one of my children is a child no longer – and with my youngest son turning 11, I feel that I have moved on to a new stage – I have moved past toddlers, children and tweens, and now I have to develop the new skill of parenting teenagers.
There aren’t so many teenage blogs as baby blogs I find. I guess by this age they are not quite so cute and they don’t want to be photographed every five minutes with all the little funny things they are doing. There aren’t as many milestones like first crawl, first steps and first tooth.
But there are differences and new skills to be learned with this new stage. Here are some of the first things I have learned which are useful for parenting teenagers.
Social Media Rules
My daughter has joined me on Facebook and Twitter today. I’m really proud of her that she waited until it was legal, and I have also imposed on her that she needs to keep me as her friend on Facebook at all times and allow me to follow her on Twitter. In return for this I have promised that I will not be weird, and won’t be joining in with any of her conversations.
I just realised today that this means she will now see every bit of my Facebook stream too, so I may need to watch what I am saying a bit more. I don’t think I’m an embarrassing parent and I don’t think there is anything out there that I wouldn’t discuss openly with her, but it is something to think about.
My daughter has so much to say at the moment. She has lots of views on politics, the way the world works, education and so much else. Some of her views I agree wholeheartedly with, some of them I have a different opinion, or looking at it from a world weary perspective, I can see why some of her obvious solutions for the world’s problems are unlikely to work.
Part of me is really looking forward to that stage when she has children of her own, and she starts to see the other side of the independence vs rules and discipline debate. But until then, I’m not going to tell her outright that she is dead wrong – I will leave her to work some of it out in her own time. And sometimes she amazes me, teaching me new things and forcing me to examine my opinions and maybe update some of them.
So for the moment we keep talking, a lot, sparring verbally , and even when she is disagreeing vehemently with me I smile and give thanks for such an articulate confident and opinionated young woman.
Seeing things from her point of view
In some ways being an adolescent now is no different to how it was in my day. I recognise the social awkwardness, the exam stress, the hormonal fluctuations, and the constant comparisons with peers, wondering if you look right, act right or follow the right trends.
In some ways I think today’s teens have it a bit easier – my children are certainly more affluent and have access to so much more in terms of toys, gadgets and equipment than I ever had. They are socially connected with their friends and can easily reach out for support 24/7 if they want to.
But all of this comes at a price. Social connectedness means more chances to compare with peers and more chances to feel unworthy. Having one or two good real life friends is not enough sometimes – there is pressure to be liked by people you have never met. The current craze for girls putting on loads of make up every day and taking selfies just to get social media attention is one case in point. I feel that is so sad, and am thankful that right now my daughter agrees with me and doesn’t join in with that behaviour.
I am also fairly certain that education standards have risen dramatically since I was at school. Now that everyone has access to Google you have to do a little bit more than just “parrot what was in the book” in order to stand out. Also the schools seem much more interested in their own good grades, which are available to any prospective parent on the internet, that they can sometimes miss out on whether the children are getting a full and enriching educational experience.
I have had to wade in more than once at both of my children’s schools, and I will continue to do so where I feel that they have a genuine cause for concern (about 1 in 4 of the grievances they bring to me!). When I was at school this just didn’t happen – you just had to put up with the bad teachers as well as the good, and my parents did nothing more than read my school report once a year and pass a brief comment on it. I hope that both my children know that I am following them carefully, listening to their concerns and helping out wherever I can.
My children both do after school activities; sporting, artistic and musical. They pack in quite a lot to their weeks and the stress can be high, especially when homework starts to build up as well.
This is an area where I think we walk a very thin tightrope – on the one hand I really want them to persevere with their disciplines, develop resilience when things get harder and they find challenges, practice their instruments and continue with the things that round out their personalities and will stand them in good stead for adulthood. But on the other hand it is so important not to overload them with stress and lead them to feel that they have no time for themselves.
I’m not sure if I have this right, but it is an area I keep looking at and monitoring. We have quite a lot of down time days in our house – pj days in front of the TV or doing art activities. We all use screens for relaxation – some parents will tut at this I know but for me and my children a little bit of time online just idly browsing is a great stress reliever.
So that is where I have got to so far. I would love to hear other people’s hints tips and advice on parenting teenagers, and any big pitfalls that are over the horizon for me. I like to be prepared…
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