Teenage Years: The Final Exam Of Parenting

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Teenage Years: The Final Exam Of ParentingTeenagers. I think that part of raising kids strikes fear into the heart of every parent who has a toddler. It’s a lot to watch your three-year-old scream and throw a fit over something, or everything in a lot of cases, and to think: someday this toddler will be a teenager with these same tendencies. (Insert quick freak-out session.) And it probably doesn’t help that our own parents remind us what we acted like as teenagers, either. Or that we remember all the crazy stuff we did when we were teens — that our parents still have no idea about.

So you basically spend years raising your babies and studying up for the Final Exam: Teenagehood. Definitely the scariest ‘hood if you ask me!

It’s easy to look at your little kids and feel like you have a good, long time before the dreaded teen years will invade your household. But I promise you, it happens almost overnight. You tuck your little baby into a crib one night and the next, can’t walk in their room without gagging over the teen smell coming from somewhere. Ok, everywhere. 

So what should you be prepping for?

I am not an expert. I don’t have any degrees in child psychology. But I do have a 17-year-old son and a 15-year-old daughter. We’ve been cruising through Teenhood for several years by now. I have experience; that’s what I can offer. I’ll give you a few tips from what I’ve learned so far — a Study Guide for the Final Exam, if you will.

1. It’s actually very simple: Know your child. They do seem a bit alien when those teenage hormones kick in and their emotions can go from A to Z in a matter of minutes, but I promise your baby is still in there somewhere. The key to surviving and even thriving during the teen years comes down to responding to your teen the way that you have been for years. 

2. Watch your teen for any red flags. If it seems odd to you, it probably is. Are they more or less happy than usual? More stressed? More tired? Try to take cues and navigate the issue together. A simple, “Are you ok?” can open the door. Sometimes that won’t work, and they just want privacy. That’s ok too. In that situation, I play support person. I give sneaky back rubs (touch is one of the things teens don’t get as much and it’s really important) or I make their favorite meals or snacks. I don’t keep asking what’s wrong or nagging them. (Because I promise nagging is the only term your teens will call it when you’re worried.) This sneaky approach works every time. It relaxes them and even if they don’t talk to me, they will talk to someone about the issue.

3. Let them live THEIR life. I’m not saying they should be allowed to break family rules or anything like that, but your job as the parent of a teen is to be their safety net and their compass, but not their dictator. In just a few years, they are legally allowed to make their own decisions. Imagine if they’ve not practiced at all before then. It would be like taking your new driving-permit-holder on the highway the first trip out. So remember to take a step back and let them make as many decisions as you feel comfortable letting them. (I think you’ll be surprised by what an incredible human you have raised.)

4. Get to know their friends. Friends are pretty much the be-all and end-all during teen years. Every moment of free time will be spent with them (and not you anymore). If you get to know their friends and make them feel comfortable around you and at your house, you will get a much closer seat to watch your teen’s life unfolding. I can’t tell you how many times my husband and I have been the driver, picking up friends or taking a group of teens and dropping them off somewhere. But I CAN tell you where all my teens’ friends live and how rowdy they get on a long car ride! (Worth it!)

5. Remember to “chill out bruh.” Your teen will make bad choices and mistakes. It will be much easier to understand and to get past these if you remember that their brains are not fully mature (until 25-years-old!), so they will always be doing the best they can at the time. Give them some understanding and some grace and you’ll all be fine.

That’s pretty much it. You can and will make it through the teen years. Some months and years will be harder than others. I’ll even let you in on a little secret: the teen years have been my favorite. Yes, the smell. Yes, the attitudes. Yes, the constant grocery bill. But watching the almost-grown human that you created turn into this amazing person of their own, is an A+ for sure! 

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Hey Ya'll! I’m Audrey, a middle of nowhere, East Tennessee transplant. My husband (and forever crush) Andy and I were born and raised in Ohio State Buckeye territory, where we met in junior high school and married halfway through college. We have 2 tweens here on Earth: Lucas-the sweetest jokester boy you will ever meet, and Alaina-a charismatic and responsible redhead. We were hoping for a bigger family, but it wasn’t in the cards for us. For years we vacationed here in and around Knoxville, and so when the opportunity came to move here, we took it! Prior to moving here, I was first and foremost a Wife and Mother, but filled my days at a special needs preschool, title company, and as a FT volunteer-a-holic. In my spare time, I love diy, crafting, reading and writing. And I will always be a barefoot farm girl at heart. We raise/grow our own food- and I occasionally even make dinner out of our homegrown goodness- but I hate cooking! I can’t wait to immerse myself in this sweet, southern community!

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