When my kids were age 7 and under, I feared the teenage years. Dreaded them. Mainly because I reflected on what I saw as a Jr. High teacher, what I heard from teens I knew, or recalled my own past behavior. It did not help matters that whenever the 'teen years' were mentioned, there always followed a roll of the eyes and the phrase "just you wait" from parents of teens. I had to learn to put those fears to rest, or at least, keep them on a short leash.
Containing those fears came easier than I thought. About eight years ago, I approached the subject with a friend, (Brenna) a home school mother of six children ranging in age from 6 - 22. After witnessing over the course of a few years how polite and well-mannered all her children were, (particularly the teens), how respectful they treated their parents as well as others, I wanted to ask her how she and her husband did it. (And that is NOT to say her kids were perfect, they weren't. They just didn't fit the typical out-of-control stereotype.)
Brenna's response to my questions:: "The teenage years are amazing, fantastic, adventurous, tough, and some of the hardest work you will have, but totally worth it! It's about how you approach it."
Our approach was to pass along our faith and explain the why's behind it as thoroughly as we could, seek advice from like-minded parents, (there are a lot of great people out there who are parents, but that does not mean their idea of parental guidelines are on the same page as your own), not to worry about what the rest of society thought of your parental decisions, and finally, not to cave to society's standards.
It took releasing a lot of pre-ill conceived notions, but David and I have learned to feel encouraged and optimistic about these teen years. I say this acknowledging that even though we have a 10th and 8th grader, we are still NEWBIES at this role. We certainly have so much to learn, since we have already met up with some epic-fail, teen parenting moments. The fear that was so worrisome years ago, well, it does not need to be.
In addition to reflecting on our parents and taking advice from like-minded veterans, we have found so many resources available to us. Off the top of my head, I can list these authors that have encouraged parenting through the teenage year: Dr. Ray Guarendi, Dr. Meg Meeker, MD, Dr. Greg and Lisa Popcak...we have read multiple books from each.
Through the blog world, I have also found some aMAZing moms who inspire me every day. Just to name a few, there's Tiffany, at Family at the Foot of the Cross...Laurie, at Keeping It Simple....Kathy, at 9Peas....all moms who have at least one child currently in or through college. I love the grace and wisdom that they bring to parenting teenagers/ young adults. They are so encouraging.
Technology, specifically the Internet, was a game changer in our society. When we introduced cell phones, (we have not had a land line for almost 8 years), I found the author to Smart Martha's Catholic Guide for Busy Moms so incredibly helpful in the technology department. Her common sense approach to parenting with technology was a gem to find! In fact, it is the second chapter of her book, The Media Monster.
There are so many resources to help parents find their way through the maze of teen topics, from technology to sex, from social media to self esteem. I just want younger parents to know that the teen age years do not have to be so dreaded as David and I thought they were.
Coming full circle, David has taught me that wringing my hands while worrying about if our kids will make poor choices is pointless. Instead, continue to strive in teaching them their faith, explain the why's, and fill our parental arsenal with good and holy remedies to help our teens when "our kids will make those poor choices." In other words, be well-prepared instead of living in denial. There's no drama-free family.
~ Patty ~