Parenting Teens: What Happened to the Kids We Raised?
By: Misty Boucher
About five years ago, a friend and I agreed to meet at a local coffee shop in our hometown. She had arrived about 10 minutes late and had hastily made her way to where I was sitting. She flopped herself across the table from me. From her disheveled appearance, I knew all was not well. “What’s going on?” I asked. “Teenagers, that’s what’s going on!” she said. For the next hour, she shared all the drama and mayhem that had now become her new day-to-day. I listened and outwardly expressed compassion for my sweet friend, but on the inside I was in utter disbelief. “They were the best kids growing up, what happened?” “How could she let her kids act this way?” And somewhere deep down, in what I like to call the pit of judgment, I had the audacity to think, “My kids would never act like this.” Oh, how smug I was!
Fast forward to the present day, I find myself living mostly in a state of uncertainty and shock as I raise my own three teenage girls. My sweet, kind, loving daughters have transformed into fiercely independent, opinionated, and what I like to call “spicy” young women. And now, on the daily I find myself asking myself, “What happened?” But seriously, I need to know, what happened?
It felt like yesterday my daughters were writing me love letters, greeting me with big hugs, and sharing secrets. Oh my how times have changed! For example, I recently had to implement a mandatory one-a-day hug (and with both arms) rule. Our opinions no longer align on any topic. And when I say any topic, I mean every topic. And trying to get my oldest daughter to spend time with me nowadays, usually has to include some form of bribery. Here’s the thing, with the exception of some behaviors teetering on disrespectful, they are acting exactly the way they are supposed to act.
It is completely normal for teens to begin separating themselves from their parents. It is natural and part of the self-realization process for an adolescent to develop an independent identity away from their family. In fact, it’s a sign that you have done your job really well! While their big opinions may drive you crazy, researchers at Clark University found when parents recognize the viewpoints of their adolescent children and encourage them to express themselves, teens are more motivated in school, have a stronger sense of their self-worth, and are less prone to depression*. The constant pushback can be exhausting, but it is a necessary part of their journey to becoming competent adults who can solve their own problems.
While raising teens can feel like a challenging, thankless job, know that your experience is a shared one. Here are a few reminders for parents of teens:
Support your teen in solving their own problems. As parents, our natural instinct is to offer advice or provide a solution, when in fact, the best thing we can do is be fully present and listen. Try asking questions that will help identify their options, so they can come up with their own solutions.
Support autonomy. Fully accept your child’s independence by encouraging them to explore, allowing them to make their own decisions, and acknowledging their viewpoints. Remember this will help them become an independent, well-adjusted adult.
Reach out for parent support. Connecting with other parents can be affirming and comforting. You Have A Village is an online community offering parents unlimited access to weekly expert-moderated support groups at various times throughout the day and night. Join YHAV at https://www.youhaveavillage.com/join-your-village
I have learned from raising my own teenagers that parenting is not about me. It’s not their job to understand my perspective or acknowledge all my hard work and sacrifices. It’s actually my job to support them through this transitional period from adolescence to adulthood. I am not saying it is easy or fun, but it is necessary. And I do believe the greatest gift will be to one day see them out in the world thriving as young adults. Plus, I am comforted knowing they will likely have teenagers of their own one day, which puts a big smile on my face.
For more information, visit www.youhaveavillage.com/for-parents
*Marbell-Pierre KN, Grolnick WS, Stewart AL, Raftery-Helmer JN. Parental Autonomy Support in Two Cultures: The Moderating Effects of Adolescents' Self-Construals. Child Dev. 2019 May;90(3):825-845. doi: 10.1111/cdev.12947. Epub 2017 Oct 23. PMID: 29063608.