There were some days over this past year and a half where the teens seemed scarier than this global pandemic.
I’m not the only one who was a terror as a teen, right?
The demands of school, work and staying sane through this event was a lot to experience. We were forced into a new regimen, and to stay inside as much as possible. This shook our world to the core and for a long time, it seemed like the world stood still.
For us, it was traumatic. From my perspective, seeing my kids struggle in such a deep way was one of the worst feelings I’ve experienced.
There are a lot of pieces coming out now about how this prolonged traumatic event has impacted all of us. It is helpful knowing I’m not alone. I’m a big advocate for mental health and I gently urge anyone who is struggling, reach out for help.
While there were some very trying days, I have an overwhelming gratitude for the learning opportunities that came from this experience. Here are 3 things I learned while parenting teens during a pandemic:
- Compassion and empathy go a long way.
There were days where things were bleak. They didn’t want to help around the house. They didn’t want to go for a walk. They just didn’t want to do anything. I couldn’t even bribe them to be interested in getting schoolwork done.
And that became ok for me.
What this taught me was that my teens were experiencing the vast array of human emotions. This pandemic was not an easy one to endure, especially with the pressures of school, homelife and social media.
While I never experienced a global pandemic as a teenager, I do remember how difficult it was to navigate life in general. On the cusp of adulthood and learning where I belonged, And did I mention the emotions? Teen years are riddled with ups and downs.
I found that if I tapped into my own experience as a teen and combined it with what I know now, I was able to allow them to process their experience without reacting to it. In turn, I was able to respond in a compassionate and caring manner.
It is difficult to see my kids struggling and not be able to fix it. I had to learn to give them space while asserting clear boundaries in a different way. However, by allowing my teens to experience their feelings in their own way, I began to see them grow and adapt in ways I would have never imagined. Which leads me to…
- Their perspective is different than mine.
I may think I know what they’re thinking and how they’re feeling, but then they tell me differently.
Allow me to give an example:
After dinner the rule is whoever makes dinner doesn’t have to clean up. Since I am typically the one who makes dinner, I will usually say something along the lines of, “ok, who’s cleaning up?”
I never understood why I got the eye rolls or attitude.
Until one day when my dear, sweet daughter made the statement: You know, Mom, you can just tell us to clean up. My son even chimed in with a Yea, mom.
I’m sorry, say what? This statement triggered me in a way that will resonate with many parents: What am I doing wrong?
For those of you who don’t know my parenting style, I do not like to micromanage or dictate because I feel that they will learn how to do adult things successfully if given the opportunity to step up.
Through conversation and an open mind, I discovered my delivery of “who’s cleaning up?” came off as passive aggressive to them even though that was not my intention.
Not my proudest mom moment, but certainly an eye-opening experience.
And so, I approach interactions with a little more thought. While I may not be perfect, I know this is something that can be worked on.
- They are resilient… and so am I.
The simple fact that they are alive and well today is a miracle. Before the pandemic they experienced things that would have made my knees buckle and yet, here they stand. Beautiful, loving and resilient young adults.
During this pandemic, I’ve seen all of us come out the other side because of our collective resilience. While not all moments were filled with moonbeams and sparkles, I learned that we can do hard things, disagree and still have love and laughter.
Relationships were stretched, expectations had to be managed and staying in the moment had to be priority. But we did it.
If we can do this together, we can do anything.
There are frequently times when I look at my kids in awe. They are well-rounded, mature and respectable. All their struggles and triumphs have molded them into who they are today.
Then I realize I am part of their process.
Parenthood has been the best learning experience. While my job as a parent is to guide them into adulthood, they have guided me to become the woman I am today.
This pandemic has taught me many things but when it comes to parenting teens, I know we can get through anything life throws at us and come out on the other side stronger, loving and together because of our resilience.