Raising Teens Made Me Question Myself As A Parent
Maybe you’re in the same place. If so, there’s hope.
I’m going to be brutally honest: As a mom of teenagers, there have been times I’ve felt like giving up on my kids. Their actions made me wonder: Were they going to graduate? Were they going to be able to live on their own? Were they depressed? Will they make it? Each of them has gone through periods where their grades slipped, they didn’t have any motivation, and their selfishness was off the charts. I racked my brain trying new things but I felt I wasn’t getting through to them.
I’m almost at the end of this phase, as my kids are aging out of high school, and I can say it’s been the most taxing period of my life. Raising teenagers made me question myself as a parent in a way I never did when they were young. And when things weren’t great, I kept a lot of what was happening in our home to myself, because I felt shame wondering what I was doing wrong. It was exhausting.
Around age 12, they all seemed to lose their zest. They wanted to quit every sports team and club they had joined. They spent endless hours in their rooms and when they came out, I dealt with entitled kids who were not being raised to act that way. I put them all in therapy at different points. I chalked a lot of this up to normal teenage hormones, but I think it was exacerbated by their endless use of phones and social media. I was getting calls from the school about them skipping class, goofing off, fighting, and not handing in their work. I would talk to them but it was like trying to communicate with a brick wall. I cried a lot. I got mad at them. And I wanted to give up.
But I didn’t. I kept loving them and tried to give them a bit more breathing room. I let them quit sports and clubs. I stopped trying to force them to talk. They each hated therapy so I took them out of it. If they wanted to spend the day in their room instead of joining me out to eat or shopping, I respected their wishes and went without them. I want to be with my kids more than anything, but I had a life I wanted to live and needed to take care of myself too.
I stopped hovering, telling them they should do this or that, and stopped yelling. I stopped making them clean their rooms and I shut their doors when they weren’t home so I wouldn’t be bothered by their mess. I stopped trying to get them to be who I wanted them to be and I just let them find their own way.
It was clear to me that my kids each thrived on autonomy and space. But of course, I set some ground rules: If they went up to their room right after school, they had to come down to eat dinner. If they didn’t want to do their homework, it was their choice and they had to deal with the consequences. I still reminded and encouraged them to do their best in school, but I stopped micromanaging their every move.
It was clear that the more I pushed the more they pushed back. The angrier I got, the more they did things that made me angry. And when I started just accepting them and letting them know they could make their own choices and I’d love them anyway, they started to change.
And, as a result, I noticed a difference. Instead of denying my requests to do family things together, they wanted to come with me. They started handing in schoolwork without me saying a word. They started spending less time in their rooms and they found hobbies and passions on their own without me directing them.
This took time and I had to be patient. I knew I couldn’t keep doing what I was doing because it wasn’t working and we were all miserable. Letting go was the hardest thing I have ever done because I love them so much and I didn’t want them to fail.
But I realized I had given them all the tools they needed to survive and I had to have faith that everything would be OK.