“The most important thing she’d learned over the years was that there was no way to be a perfect mother and a million ways to be a good one” – Jill Churchill
Author: The Word Contessa
I don’t profess to be a perfect mom, but I raised 4 great kids. I am proud of their individuality. Each is unique, but it’s the common qualities they share that are my validation I didn’t screw them up too much. I was a secondary teacher for 37 years and dedicated my professional life to kids…mine, and hundreds, maybe thousands, of others. And guess what? The ones I really like, the ones I click with? Teenagers!
One of the greatest compliments I ever received was from my youngest child and only daughter. She said, “Mom, my friends like to talk to you. You just know what to say”. So, I’ll take that.
While there is an awful lot to share with young moms about those early years of surviving momhood with toddlers and early schoolers, the years that come into focus for me are the years with middle schoolers and high schoolers. Those teen years are when kids try to figure things out about themselves and their world. I considered myself extremely fortunate to be IN my kids’ world because I was at their school. That gave me exposure and access most parents don’t have. In fact, the time from my oldest’s first year of middle school to my youngest’s final year of high school spanned 16 years. I guess it’s a good thing I LIKED those years and that age group.
I read someone else’s description of age 9 as the “halftime” of raising kids. The “second half” certainly has its own challenges and joys and it brings an awareness that the clock is ticking toward the end of your daily in-the-same-house parenting role. It is a time of helping your kids establish a self-worth and self-direction that will live in them forever.
These are some of my “rules” for sharing life with teen kids… observations/rules/advice for parents of kids in their teen years.
- Say “yes” whenever you can. There are plenty of inevitable “no’s”, but try to make your default “yes…yes, you can; yes, I will”.
- Never mock your kids or make jokes and tell stories at their expense. Seriously. Even if they laugh, it tears off a little bit of their self-esteem and makes them trust you a little less.
- Teach kids that sometimes you just have to do what you just have to do. You do, they do, everybody does.
- Let their friends come over. Even if your house is messy or you have your pajamas on. They don’t care.
- Feed ‘em. And their friends.
- Fight the urge to think your child’s academic or athletic accomplishments (or lack of) are about you. They aren’t.
- Know when a “thing” really matters to your kids, even if it stretches the budget a little.
- Remind them girls are just different than boys. And boys are just different than girls. It helps them figure it out. And they have a ton to figure out in this department.
- Car conversations can be a bit easier because you aren’t face-to-face. But try not to grill them every time you get them alone. They won’t want to go with you.
- No matter how many or how few kids you have, each one needs to know that sometimes they come first…and sometimes they don’t. NOBODY is first all the time
- It never hurts or costs anything to be kind. Lots of kids have a much tougher life than your kids do. Teach them to never make it harder for their classmates.
- It’s always easier to give tasks and responsibilities to the older kids. Don’t rob the younger ones of the chance for accomplishment and to feel your trust.
- Be sure they know, “I am always on your side!” If it’s important to them, it should be important to you.
- The teacher isn’t always right.
- You can think anything you want, but you cannot SAY anything you want.
- It won’t hurt or won’t last forever. Really.
- You love them. You’re proud of them. Say it to them. Show it to them.
“She always allowed each of her children to form into who they would become while finding the exact mixture of loving intervention and the ability to stand back and watch it happen” – The Word Contessa’s Son