Parenting a teen can be tumultuous. There’s the stress of expectations and too many activities, fear and anxiety about the future, overall lack of motivation, and occasional outbursts of anger. And that’s just the parents!
I’m joking, but I’m also not. Parenting a teen is not for the faint of heart. We weren’t given a manual to raise kids as it is, and just when we’ve got some things figured out, puberty hits and it all goes out the window. What’s a dad to do if he wants to survive (and thrive) through the teenage years? Here are 7 essentials for surviving parenting a teen.
1. Let go of your dreams.
You have dreamed about who your child will become, but the challenge of parenting a teen is that he or she is not inclined to take the path you lay out. Because you love her, this brings up all sorts of fear and anxiety in you. However, the tighter you grip, the more she’ll fight to get free. Your goal isn’t to control her, but to help her become the healthiest version of herself.
2. Take care of yourself.
You can’t give what you don’t have. If you aren’t healthy, you can’t help your teen be healthy. It’s hard to be patient when you’re exhausted or stretched thin from work. It’s difficult to listen well when you’re caught up in your own anxieties. Marathon runners have strict health regimens to be prepared for a race. I’ve never run a marathon, but I’m pretty sure parenting teens is harder.Be quick to assure your teens that they can bounce back from mistakes.
3. Extend grace.
Your teen’s brain isn’t fully formed. He’s still maturing. He has hormones pumping around his body in various levels, he’s feeling the pressures of his peers and the weight of expectations, and he deeply desires to be accepted and loved. Extend grace. He’s going to make some mistakes. Be quick to assure him that he can bounce back from mistakes.
4. Rely on friends.
You’re going to need your friends. I mean it. Parenting teens makes you feel like you’re going crazy. It can be really helpful to talk to some people who know what you’re going through. You’ll need to rely on your friends for this journey to help you laugh at yourself, sort through some challenges, and realize you aren’t alone.
5. Laugh often.
It’s easy to think that every stupid thing your teen does is could ruin her life. It isn’t always that serious. She’s going to be OK. And so will you. The thing about parenting a teen is that funny stuff happens all the time. Try to take it all a little less seriously and let yourself laugh. Your blood pressure will thank you.
6. Be curious.
If you’re the parent of a teen, you have often asked this question to no one in particular, “What the heck is he doing?” Teens do strange things all the time. We can judge them for it because we obviously know what the “right things” to do are, or we can be curious. The thing about being curious is you might actually learn something new. And it may in fact help you appreciate your teen more.
7. Hold on.
One thing is for sure—parenting a teen isn’t easy. These years are full of laughter and joy, but they’re also full of pain and heartache (for your teen and for you). It will most certainly be hard, but it can be wonderful at the same time. Whether it is will be determined by the posture you take as the parent.
Sound off: What other survival tips would you offer someone who’s parenting a teen?
Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What do you think is (or will be) the hardest part of being a teenager?”