Kindness and patience the key to surviving your children’s teenage years

Go easy on the preaching – it may help lessen conflict and keep you from resorting to the gin bottle

Let’s face it, it’s not always going to work in a peaceful way, but if what you’re doing right now results in constant arguments, maybe you need to change tack.

Let’s face it, it’s not always going to work in a peaceful way, but if what you’re doing right now results in constant arguments, maybe you need to change tack.

 

“Why is this happening to me?”

“Why is everything I say wrong?”

“It’s so unfair.”

“Nobody treats me nicely and they’re always just telling me what to do.”

“I can’t do anything right . . . ”

Sound familiar? No, these are not the words of angry teenagers, but the daily utterances of parents of a teenager – welcome to the mad house!

Not a day goes by that I don’t utter some of those sentences myself or hear other parents of teenagers bemoaning the lack of respect, inability to tidy up, attitude and anger of their teenage offspring.

Make no mistake, these are tough times for many parents as the mercurial moods of toddlerhood seems to reappear with a vengeance and they wake up one day to find their happy child has turned into a much larger, opinionated and articulate expert on everything.

Many parents approach raising teenagers as a painful ordeal, believing they can only watch helplessly from the sidelines as their once lovable children transform into unpredictable monsters.

That attitude can only set you and your teenager up for several unhappy, unsatisfying years together.

It’s not an easy path – I currently live with my two 14-year-old daughters. I often daydream of calling in United Nations secretary-general to broker some kind of peace treaty that would signal the end of the hostile environment and regular stalemate that dominates our home.

Instead I go deep inside and remember the first time around. I’ve actually done this before and survived. The boy child is now 21. He’s still alive and we don’t seem to have completely mentally ruined him.

There are crucial skills for survival – there are days when you will want to jump into the abyss and days when you glow with pride and revel in the kindness of your hormonal bundles, but the good news is that you most definitely can navigate the teenage years without resorting to the gin bottle.

Overreactive parenting can very quickly wear you down and wear you out. You may feel you’re pushed up against a brick wall but kindness and patience are the keys – not preaching.

I’ve a few years left on the battlefield of teenage parenting. It’s not going to be perfect, it’s most likely going to be a messy, rollercoaster ride but I know we will all be okay. .

Here’s my survival tips…

1) Remember your teenage self

Step back in time and tap into your inner teenager. Most of us would never choose to go back to those days despite the claims that they were ‘the best days of our lives’.

No, I do not want to go back to the awkwardness and self-consciousness, the self-doubt and anxiety, the trying to fit in – but not too much, the pressure of conforming in school.

Everything is changing both physically and emotionally and yet you are thrust in to the most intense situations of your young life. Remember what it was like to navigate those times and bring out your empathy, it’s not easy being a teenager.

2) Let them go – you’re not in control anymore

Yes, maybe you fancy yourself as an authoritarian parent, demanding respect and laying down rules at every turn – good luck with that!

Your teenager is separating from you and gravitating toward their peer group. This process is normal, natural and necessary. Fight it and you’ll lose. Instead, work with it as well as you can by understanding what’s yours to control and what isn’t.

Set basic rules for personal safety and let them be. They will make mistakes and they will learn. You’ll always be there as a soothing presence when things go pear-shaped and that’s what your teenager needs to know.

3) You’re not their best friend

Now this one is a bit controversial! Your job is to advise and guide them safely through the teenage maze and help them develop into confident and resilient adults. This means you have to say no sometimes, expect them to follow some rules and basic guidelines. It means sometimes they won’t like you and sometimes they will HATE you. Be okay with that, you’re doing what’s right for them.

4) Untidy bedrooms are not life-threatening

As far as I know, no one has yet died of an untidy bedroom. But some parents really can’t let this go. You must! Although it seems like an affront to domestic order for some parents, the messy room represents “personal freedom” to many teenagers demonstrating a need for autonomy. They’ll have to have an occasional clear out if they want clean clothes and when their friends come around. It’s an easy rebellion to ignore.

5) Find a way to communicate without drama

Let’s face it, it’s not always going to work in a peaceful way, but if what you’re doing right now results in constant arguments, maybe you need to change tack.

The rowing, melodrama or silent treatment can feel very personal, but try not to take it to heart. Always keep the channels of communication open.

Take the time to learn their language and when they might want to talk. Imagine you’re dealing with an extremely difficult work colleague – you probably would choose a different approach so try it with the teenager. Mostly they want to be heard.

6) Put yourself first

Yes, it seems like the cardinal sin of parenting and most definitely does not appear in the rule book of the Irish mammy, but hear me out . . . Parenting is tiring, if you need some support, find it.

Many parents put all their energies into caring for their children and sacrifice their own personal needs and self-care. When it all gets too much, go to another room and take a breather. Take time out for yourself and get enough sleep, it really does help.

– If you or your teenager are struggling mentally, you can get help and advice from Teenline (teenline.ie) or Jigsaw (jigsaw.ie).

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