The hidden truth behind parenting teenagers?

There is something I’ve been wondering about for a long time. In fact ever since my eldest turned thirteen a number of years ago. I am wondering why do parents of teenagers never need advice?

You may be wondering what I am talking about, but it is simple. Before we ever give birth, we are provided with a wealth of information. Before our children are even born, we get to read books about healthy pregnancy, preparations for birth, and finally books on birth itself.
Once our baby is born we are spoiled for choice. There are books about bonding, breastfeeding, attachment parenting, sleeping, weaning, first foods, potty training etc.
I think it would be fair to say that there are a very large number of books on every topic imaginable.

As parents, we devour these books, and spend an endless amount of time asking our friends and other parents advice on all manner of issues we have with our little ones. Crying babies, fussy eaters, reluctant potty goers. You name the issue, there is a book on the subject.

So my question is, “Why do we not thirst for knowledge about teenagers”.small__8541267715

What about acne, anxiety, depression? Alcohol, cigarettes and drug abuse? What about questionable friends, or no friends? Studying too little or too much, school choices, cyber bullying, social media overuse?

To my mind, each one of these issues is of a more worrying and serious nature than potty training or fussy eating. However in the main, they are rarely discussed. Certainly not openly, and if my local bookshop is anything to go by, not in written form either.

Why?

My own belief is that it is widely accepted that babies are difficult. A child who is a fussy eater will eventually eat, a child who is a bad sleeper will eventually learn to settle alone and sleep all night. No one believes they will continue to have these issues for life. However sometimes parents of teenagers forget these years will draw to a close and our adult children will emerge.
As our children grow up for a time, life settles down. Our ten, eleven or twelve year olds are easily managed. School is not a major issue, and their other activities such as music or sport are a big part of their life.

Then as if over night everything changes.

It begins slowly, with perhaps an increase in moodiness and aggression. They begin to challenge authority. We don’t take it all too seriously acknowledging they are just growing up. We even smile and remark “teenager”, in a mock despair. However in no time at all their behaviour may become more challenging. We are sucked into arguments we do not want to have and the whole atmosphere in the house changes.

There are arguments about not being allowed to go out, and what time to come in. About attitude and aggresion. There are major disagreements about friends, clothes, and piercings. There is a time in our lives as parents of teenagers, when our patience and tempers are tested to extremes. We meet situations which leave us stunned or confused. Our trust for our young teenagers is often tested, and our anxiety levels are high. “Are they gone where they said they were going?”. “Are they drinking, or worse?”. “How can we make them see they are making poor choices?”.

Life for parents of teenagers can be difficult, and has a knock on effect for all the family. Yet in my experience, most parents of teenagers say nothing. When asked, “How is your daughter getting on? Most will reply, “Oh great, settled into school well thanks”. The reality may be she is doing no homework, wants to be out with her friends all the time, you know she is smoking and last week she was brought home drunk. This is not an exaggeration. It is the reality for many good parents of good teenagers. That is the point that is missed. Good parents of good teenagers. Because despite their bad behaviour and poor choices, for many teenagers their behaviour is just a phase, part and parcel of growing up.photo credit: ashley rose, via photopin cc

However it is an embarrassing phase for most parents. For many it can feel like failure, and just like when our children were tiny, it can seem as if it will never end. As parents we do our best to protect our children. No one wants the neighbour up the road with the twitching curtain, to hear what really happened at the party up the road. We don’t want our child to get a bad name. So we live in silence, telling no one and living a lie.

I often think as I look at all those baby books what a terrible shame it is that so many parents of teenagers do not ask for help. Because just as when our children were small, it is a huge relief to know we are not alone. It is sad to think that friends who have shared so much over many years, may decide this is family business and stay quiet.

Maybe if we did share more often we would be better equipped to cope with bad behaviour. That by pooling advice, just as we did when they were children, we might better parent our teenagers. If not, at least we would know we are not alone, and that if we hang in there our wild, difficult teenager will evolve into a young adult any parent would be proud of.

photo credit: @rtimage – Debora Bogaerts via photopin cc
photo credit: ashley rose, via photopin cc

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23 thoughts on “The hidden truth behind parenting teenagers?

  1. You make a really good point. Kids need engaged, involved parents more and more as they get older, yet many parents throw up their hands and give up when their kids reach the teen years. I think, for a lot of people, it’s because they’re not cute and cuddly any more – they’re odd and challenging. What so many people miss out on, is how fascinating and funny teens can be. I really LIKED all three of mine, even though they presented really difficult parenting situations as they grew up.
    -Amy at http://www.momgoeson.wordpress.com

    1. I like my teenagers too, but I did have one who was very very testing. I look back and think it was partly our fault not having a clue how to deal with her.
      We all got through in one piece and she has grown up to be all I could want.
      So I suppose for some it is an easy ride but for others it is a very rocky road indeed. A journey most do alone.

      1. I agree – it’s definitely not easy, parenting teens. We wondered constantly if we were handling situations correctly – all you can do is hold your breath, close your eyes, and hope for the best. One thing I’ve always thought makes it harder is the terrible way people talk about teenagers – all the dire warnings about “oh, just wait till she’s a teen,” with the not-so-subtle implication that kids turn into monsters. I think parents who take that kind of talk to heart end up just assuming their kids will be bad, difficult, and unpleasant and forget to look for the good. It’s tough enough even when you come from the belief that they ARE basically good. – Amy

        1. That is a big bugbear of mine. I work a lot with teenagers and I find them to be inspiring, energetic and wonderful. They are not small babies but they are fascinating and a joy to be around. Great point.

    1. I don’t think they do. Maybe I should show them your comment! But then I’d have to admit to writing about them again. ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. Thanks. Glad you enjoyed it. I shake my head regularly wondering how or why this is the way it is. I am very open about my trials over the years and many have shared their troubles too, but in a quiet way and the discussion is just between us. But at least they shared.

  2. One reason it’s hard for parents to share publicly – not necessarily in a conversation, but in blogs and books – about their teenagers is that the teens are aware of it and object strongly to the feeling of having their privacy invaded. It’s hard to find the balance of respecting your kid’s feelings and privacy – letting them own their own experiences, yet wanting to help other parents know they are not alone in their struggles.

    1. Good point. I would not be comfortable sharing the difficulties I experienced with my teens online, unless I was posting anonymously on some site, but I have been open among friends and I think it has allowed them be more open also.

    1. Oh you are my sister. I learned all the same lessons! I think the most important lesson of all was “chose my battles wisely”, and of course drink wine often! ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. I loved my teens. They did not always like me back. But I would tell them I loved them enough for the both of us. That would get me eye rolls. But eventually they would stop being mad for a few minutes. I was fortunate enough to have people around me who were more than patient and tolerant and we muddled through together. I also had the great fortune to have been working in a facility for teenage felony offenders and had an enormous amount of educational materials to fall back on. And teens who did not mind telling me what was going on in the teen world. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    1. Ah you had your support systems in place! I know when our first was a teen we hadn’t a clue and made some classic mistakes. The others have benefited greatly from those mistakes.

  4. teenagers are wonderful people, trying to figure out the world, make sense of it, find their place in it, and become independent, all at the same time. it’s a hard place to be at times, for both the teens and the parents, and it’s so important that parents have support in all they have to do to support them as best they can.

    1. Of all the stages in my life a teenager is the one I would never revisit, and I don’t think many would. It’s a difficult time but most of us parents do survive it, and as in your family, produce very interesting “normal” adults. ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. I so agree. I have raised two teens who have gone on to become wonderful adults. One is a high school teacher with three children and the other an insurance salesman ( ๐Ÿ˜ณ ) with a lovely wife. I still have 5 months left of having a Tween and the moodiness has started already.
    Those adult children that I am so proud of now gave me the largest amount of grief through their teen years. My daughter often speaks about it and tells me that I was lucky she wasn’t as bad as her friends! And with my son…. I remember going to the school guidance officer to put our side of the story forward on more than one occasion. It’s a hard road being a parent.

    1. We should all wear “we survived” badges when we get through the teenage years. The thing is despite their ups and downs, tantrums and rows, the vast majority become normal adults.
      Mind you it is a rocky road at times.

  6. I bought one of those parenting books when Bigfoot was born. I got to the second chapter, took one look at the title “A Silent Education”, then stomped outside and flung it in the bin. I have been rolling my gut instinct ever since and it seems to be working ok – Bigfoot’s in the final run-up to his baccalaurรฉat, and we’ve survived his teenaged years without too many battles.

    1. My second just finished his first year at college. I was remembering the other day that this time last year was his leaving certificate and I wondered about your son.
      Cheers to us for making it through, (and not killing anyone!). Hope you’re doing okay. xx

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