Sorry, The Teen Years Don’t Get Easier With Each Kid

Having gone through this two times before, maybe prepared me a bit, but it certainly didn’t make it any easier.

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Sorry, the teens years don't get easier with each kid.
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My third pregnancy was my most challenging. I remember being disappointed in myself when I didn’t have the energy to do things when I was pregnant with him that I could with my first two. And when he arrived, he was also my most difficult child. I was even harder on myself when I couldn’t manage his temper, erratic moods, and meltdowns because this wasn’t my first rodeo. I somehow thought because he was my third child, I should be an expert, able to handle anything that came my way with one hand tied behind my back.

But the things that had worked with my other kids didn’t even kind of work with him. Each child is different. They all have different personalities, temperaments, and ways they communicate. One size fits all does not apply to parenting, and that never changes — especially when they become teenagers.

My first child’s tween and teen years took my by surprise. Overnight he went from a sweet little kid who showed me love every day to a quiet, temperamental walking stick of dynamite. I struggled with how to handle it, and I felt a massive void because I wasn’t sure how to give him what he needed.

When we did find our groove, I braced myself for my second: Okay, you’ve been through this before. You know what to expect.

But once again, I was humbled. My first child needed space and acceptance that he was now a quiet soul who liked to go to his room when he got home from school to decompress. My second kid needed me in different ways: She was anxious, especially socially, and struggled with friends at school. She began to isolate herself and stopped doing some of the things she’d loved before. I needed to be her support, her safe place to vent whenever she needed me. She needed encouragement. There were days when she’d come home from school and ask me to lie on the sofa with her for hours.

She is a completely different child and needed different things than my son did. There was no way I could brush it off and think, Well, giving my son space worked for us and made him come back around. I’ll just do that. She needed different things.

So, having gone through the teen years two times before, maybe prepared me a bit, but it certainly didn’t make it any easier the third time around. I really struggled when my youngest got moody and acted like everything I did was stupid and embarrassed him. He’s my last child, my baby. And that was a whole other set of feelings and emotions to deal with.

As a mom, it’s easy to get frustrated with ourselves when we feel like we can’t figure out what our child needs from us. It makes us feel like we aren’t doing a good job and that, somehow, we are going to do more damage than good — I’ve felt that way thousands of times.

But for me, remembering that all my kids are unique and have different “love languages” that I need to pay attention to, has made all the difference. It’s been a handbook of sorts. That doesn't mean I always meet their needs or do things perfectly, but it has helped me navigate these years because I’m not so hard on myself when things feel complicated, and I’m not sure what to do.

The teenager years make you learn how to parent in a completely different way. And you really do learn to support each child in a way they need to be supported.

Growing up is hard and they all struggle at some point but I know this to be true: I will be here for them and everything will work out and be okay.

Diana Park is a writer who finds solitude in a good book, the ocean, and eating fast food with her kids.

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