A joke goes: “Mothers of teenagers know why some animals eat their young.” But all the jokes apart, raising a teenager can be a stressful and psychologically draining experience. I know it first hand. I am in no way an expert on this matter, just want to share some thoughts.
In some way having a child between the age of 12 and 16 is alike to having a newborn. They keep you up at night, you are worried for their well-being at every moment and you feel exhausted. The difference between taking care of a baby and raising a teen is that with newborns, though they are fragile creatures, a lot is in your power to protect them, with teens you sometimes feel helpless to prevent a problem. Your exhaustion is physical with a newborn, and mental and emotional with a teenager.
Your child, who was mostly sweet and aiming to please the parents before, turns into a creature with sharp fangs. Moods go up and down, happy moments are followed by “disasters” on a daily basis. You feel that you are riding a roller coaster, just hold on tight.
What are the parents to do? Rule number one: have faith in good outcome. Believe in goodness of your child. Despite those cutting words that you heard from your youngster this morning, remember that she is your child. She may not look small anymore, but her brain is still a brain of a child. She depends on you in many ways. So be noble enough to forgive her and continue being a loving, patient and helpful parent. In no way I am advocating for letting the child behave rudely and do what she pleases. That is not what parenting is about. Teach her to be polite, to control herself, and to be a good person. Do it with respect as if you are speaking to a colleague at work. It takes a lot of strength to control your anger, but this is your job.
Rule number two: set clear rules and stick to them. Set limits for sleepovers and Internet use. Get to know your child’s friends and their parents. Find out what rules they have. It helps to have everybody on the same page. That is the only way to survive the teenage years. You will be surprised to see that kids find comfort in having limits and knowing what to expect. For example, in my family we discuss the destination where my driving teenager is going, who will be there and time of her return before she starts driving. Thank G-d she is honest with us. Maybe it is because we trust her, maybe it is just our luck.
Rule number three: stay positive while dealing with your teen. Praise what can be praised however small the reason is, trust them to do the chores and give the praise for that, keep fun family traditions — having meals together, playing board games or going berry picking. Pay attention to their words and wishes, listen, provide comfort, create a warm and loving home. And stay informed on what is going on in their lives. The only way to do it is through love and respectful communication, not prying or spying.
And the last advice is: pray. It helps you and your child in many mysterious ways. Good luck!