Parenting Teens Is Incredibly Isolating Because You Can’t Talk About It.

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Parenting teens is incredibly isolating because you can’t always talk about it.

“Mom! You’re gonna be getting a call from the Principal. He called me out of class and down to the office to talk to him. There’s a girl who’s accusing me and some of the other guys on the team of harassing her. She said we’re asking her to send us nude snapchats.”

This was the call I got from my senior in high school son one February afternoon.

My lunch with friends was interrupted by his call. I was unnerved.

“Wait…what? Who accused you? Did you ask her to send you nude pictures? What’s going on?”

And thus began yet another isolating adventure of raising a teenager. (For the record, after a few days, the accusations thrown at my son and his teammates were proven to be 100% false.)

At this point of time of being a parent I’d been through other isolating parenting adventures.

You know…the kind of situations that sneak up on you when your child gets to be about 11 or 12 and last until they’re adults. The kinds of things that you can’t talk about with just anyone because it would be a major violation of your child’s privacy.

The kinds of things that break your heart, leave you feeling helpless, cause your mother rage to surface, contribute to sleepless nights and make you feel like you have a ton of bricks crushing your soul.

Yeah…those situations.

When you have babies you get all the advice in the world.

Perfect, well meaning strangers in line at the store offer unsolicited advice to expecting mamas or mamas with littles.

Hell, I’m actually becoming one of those well meaning strangers!

But no one ever tells you how hard parenting teenagers will be. No one tells you how emotionally draining it is.

No one tells you how alone you will feel.

When your kids are little you have a vast support system of other mamas.

Potty training woes? No problem! You ask friends for advice and get 100 different suggestions! Your daughter doesn’t get invited to a birthday party? Easy!

A simple bitch session with your bestie about the mean mom who excluded your daughter diffuses your anger. Then a mommy/daughter date to get some ice cream to soothe your daughter’s tiny broken heart.

Little people, little problems.

So who do you go to when your 6 foot 7 inch, man sized 16 year old son falls on the foot of your bed and sobs like he did when he was a little boy because his basketball coach didn’t play him in his High School team’s nationally televised basketball game?

What do you do when your daughter doesn’t get asked to Prom her Sophomore year. And then again her Junior year. And then 2020 happens and her entire world gets cancelled.

How do you handle it when your 13 year old gets bullied day after day after day in gym class?

When he’s told he sucks at sports and that he’s a complete waste?

Who do you vent to when your 8th grader is cut from the dance team she’s been on since she was 9?

And who in the world do you confide in when your high school senior is accused of requesting nude snapchats from a random girl?

Big people, big problems.

As parents we know that some of the experiences our teens face certainly aren’t the end of the world. We have the benefit of life experience.

But we also know that not getting asked to prom or not playing in the big game or not making the dance team is a big deal to our teens. We know because we make sure to remember what was important to us when we were in the throes of adolescence. 

We understand that the hard situations our kids face day in and day out can’t be advertised on social media. That no matter how frustrated or broken hearted we are for them, the hard can’t be talked about with just anyone.

That the vast network of support we once had, shrunk.

The tough problems kids face are heavy. They are stressful.

And they aren’t ours to put on display to the world because although they gut us just as much as they gut our kids, they don’t belong to just us.

So again, what do we do when we need help and advice about our teens but we can’t solicit advice on Facebook or Instagram from all of our virtual besties?

We surround ourselves with a handful of close family and friends.

For me it consisted of choosing people that I knew I could trust implicitly.

I chose people that I knew loved me and my children unconditionally. People who I knew wouldn’t judge me when I didn’t handle every adventure exactly right. Friends who wouldn’t judge my children when they screwed up.

I chose people who would cry with me when I was sad and drop F bombs with me when I was pissed off. I chose people that I knew would have my back no matter what!

My circle was small but fierce.

They helped me navigate the big problems of my big people.

Chosen friends and family circled the wagons when everything seemed wrong and worked to make everything seem right.

They helped me understand that all teenagers and their parents are dealing with their own personalized versions of isolated misery.

They helped me realize that I didn’t know about it because, just like me, they were putting on their brave faces and doing whatever they could to protect the privacy of their children.

My circle made me feel less isolated. Less alone.

As parents, our hearts are intertwined with the hearts of our kids. When they hurt, we hurt. That’s why this teenage parenting thing is so complicated.

Their hurts are much deeper than when they were little.

A Mommy/Daughter date can no longer soothe their big broken hearts, although sometimes that can help.

If we encircle ourselves with a carefully chosen tribe of people, we will have the strength and ability, alongside our resilient, incredible teenage humans, to withstand the angst of those adolescent years.

The isolating adventure of parenting teenagers can turn into a rich, rewarding adventure filled with growth, love and laughter.

We can stand back and watch with pride as our incredible teenage humans transform, little by little, into incredible adult humans. 

2 COMMENTS

  1. What a great article!
    I pretty much raised my three kids alone, and sometimes a Mom’s cup does run a bit dry.
    I am now trying to parent my adult children – to help them manage the crazy world of parenting today. I am going to refer your blog and your book(s) to them.

    I did run across another “resource” today, a blip about a book releasing by Tim Austin, Permission to be Tough: Raising Boys to be Rugged Gentlemen…sure wish I’d had it when I had my sons at home!

    Keep writing… love your work.

  2. Parenting teens is hard and yes you get mentally fatigued and drained. I have a 14 year old who is on the spectrum and he gets obsessed like really obsessed with topics especially hearing topics or anything that friends might say etc. There’s a new thing going on right now my 14 year old has a friend whose 11 they play on roblox which is fine I monitor it and make sure that my 14 year old talks appropriately. The friend told my kiddo that they experience tics….like physical tics. So yesterday my child’s left arm was moving or as they said ticking and my child was like Mom i can’t help it I can’t stop it. This went on all day and then last night my child was on the floor whole body was shaking I went and rolled my child onto their side. (before I did this and I saw my child on the floor their eyes were focused, my child was breathing and coherent , and could understand me, and talk to me). I had my child sit up and then my child started crying like really really crying a lot. (My child has had anxiety since they were 9 years old and has been on medication to help with that. Yes my child needs that medication otherwise my child would have crying spells all day long) I then just hold my child just let them cry and just hold them, my child calmed down I had my child then lay down on the couch and I talked to them about what was bothering them or what is he stressed out about. I’m literally right now on eggshells because my kid has done this and has freaked out about all sorts of things since 9 years old. Now they have it in their head about these “tics” that their friend does and now has imitated them and such. I’m literally on a last nerve thing and i’m just like what if this happens again? We see my child’s psychiatrist on Halloween or at least phone call with the psychiatrist at 12 pm noon. I’m going to reach out sooner hopefully this will help I’m not fully sure. Yes raising teens is really hard it is no easy task and no it’s hard to talk about because so many parents who don’t get it or are in denial they judge you and make you feel that you’re a bad parent. I’m tired too and drained mentally.

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