In a world of beautiful Facebook and Instagram posts, it is not always easy to admit when we struggle with our children. Actually, it is fairly easy to admit about struggling with a little person and their inability to nap, or late potty training, or high energy. I find we can even talk and laugh about the 8-14 year old set; the talking back and sassiness; the energy and then the dip in energy. However, it is not always as easy to talk about the mid- to- late teenaged years and all the things the teenagers are dealing with. Stress. Depression. Suicide attempts. Alcohol and drug addiction. Overdosing. Eating disorders. Other mental health disorders. Rage. Date rape. Violence from a dating partner. Still dealing with the aftermath of parental divorce. There are so many challenges to face, and parents are facing them with their children in love.
Several weeks ago,in a town not too far from us, there was a beautiful young lady who committed suicide. I don’t know the story behind it, but I feel so deeply for not only her, but for her parents in this horrific tragedy. I cannot imagine what they are going through; perhaps it is such a lonely time being in the aftermath, but perhaps also there was loneliness in parenting leading up to this event. I can imagine that and think about that. The things that go on in the mid to late teenaged years, (unlike potty training mishaps or picky eating or even tweenish talking back and asking for advice on all kinds of parent forums), seems private and underground. This is partly out of respect for the beautiful and sometimes oh so fragile human being blossoming before parents’ eyes, but also partly because it is an era of happy social media selfies where major issues don’t have much of a place.
Even if a family is not dealing with catastrophic issues, there can be a sort of low-lying pressure surrounding these years...a competitive game of sorts. At least among the middle to upper class families that I observe, even in the homeschooling community, I think it can be a race in a stream–of-consciousness way, like a James Joyce novel: how many sports and how good are you and will you play in college and get a scholarship in college and how many AP Courses and Honors courses are you taking and where will you go to college and what will you do and how late can you stay up doing homework because I have to stay up until 2 to get everything done and how many places do you volunteer because you know that will look good on a college application and what do you mean you haven’t visited 12 or 14 colleges yet I mean you are a junior now and are you dual enrolling and why not and how about finishing college before you are 18 and what sort of career will you have and are you sure you can get work in that field…..
My hope for bringing this up is actually not to be depressing, but instead to be hopeful. There can be a lot of funny and beautiful moments in the mid to late teenaged years. There can be so many opportunities for connection, so long as you don’t let them constantly bury themselves in a video game or on a phone. Insist they come to the lake with you or go out with the family for a walk or spend time with their siblings. Help them get involved with things that matter to them and yes, I think there is truth in keeping them somewhat busy if they have that temperament and personality ( or letting them be if they don’t have that personality!) Help balance them, know when to push and when to let go, but most of all, just love them. The mid to late teenaged years are a hard time. Love will see them through.
Most of all, and this perhaps sounds a bit odd to those not in this stage of life yet with children, but this time is for you. Find your beautiful tribe of mother friends who will support you and love you and take you to tea and dinner so you can talk and be together. At this point, it really doesn’t matter anymore if your children and the children of your mother friends get along. You are so far past play dates. These relationships and this love is for you!
If you have a spouse or partner, lean into that person. Love that person. Be together, and be the wall and rock that the storm of teenage can bounce off of. Stand tall and stand proud. Find yourself again, because your teenagers need to see you as a person and see what you stand for. Be that for them in the midst of the low and high pressure points of these years.
And most of all, don’t be afraid to get help and to ask for professional support. In so many of these cases, I have friends who said getting help was wonderful. They wished they hadn’t waited until things snowballed further along. Get help and get it now. Involve the whole family and see what beauty and strength and courage can come out of these harder situations.
To all of you standing tall with the struggles of your mid to late teens, I see you. I am so glad today’s generation of teenagers has parents just like you. Stand tall and fly high for these young people.
Blessings and love,