I’ve spent almost a year now in the “land of two teens” where I’m gonna be living my life for another six years. Let’s not even talk about the 2.5 years that there will be three of them. I can’t even.
There’s this inner conflict going on inside of a teenager. So much is happening to their bodies, their minds, and their emotions. It makes me want to pull my hair out many days. And of course there’s the poor judgement that notoriously goes with being a teenager. At our house, we refer to the problem as PFC. (standing for prefrontal cortex, which will not be fully developed until age 25. )
We’ve made it clear in our house that there are logical explanations for what is happening developmentally. This doesn’t mean our teenagers are off the hook and allowed to act horribly with no consequence. It just means that no one is panicked with what’s happening. We can all rest easy knowing that this is a normal part of life. They are not turning into monsters, and I think there’s security for us all in recognizing that. I’ve found grace for my children on so many occasions because I can see their internal struggle.
Although we feel every day like we don’t know what we’re doing, there are a couple of things that I do think are helping us through this season of life.
1. First and foremost, just love them.
Let them know their thoughts are safe, and their feelings are okay and normal. Teach them respect, but give them space and show them grace.
2. Keep things light with teens.
For us, this basically looks like making fun of each other a lot. We mock our teens. They mock us. We all laugh about some of the irrational behaviors that are demonstrated. When things are too heavy, it can feel like growing up is scary.
3. Don’t overreact to their overreacting.
When they are coming unraveled, don’t unravel with them. Be their safe and steady place to turn. If issues arise that really have to be dealt with, try to take a step back and readdress the issue later when everyone is more calm.
4. Tag team if there are two parents.
Certain situations and topics are going to be “hot buttons” for one parent. Be ready to step in when you can see your spouse reaching their limit, and help keep each other out of the situations where you are more likely to react too harshly.
5. When something is a big deal to your teenagers, care about it.
You can help them put it in perspective, but don’t just blow it off or tell them it’s not going to matter in the end. Give them your compassion, time and a listening ear when needed.
6. Follow their cues about what they need from you as a parent.
They’ll go through phases where they relate to you differently and seem to need certain things from you to feel secure. I say for the most part as much as you are able to and feel that it is healthy, give them what they are asking for from you in these areas. More one-on-one time with dad? YES. More help making decisions and seeking mom’s approval? YES. Take it while they want it because the needs will change quickly.
7. Love them.
(Did I already say that?)