Written on April 18, 2014 at 9:49 am , by Family Circle
By Jill Caryl Weiner
Last weekend, I attended the Brooklyn Baby & Family Expo for work. I must say, as a parent of a teenage daughter and a tween son, I was amazed at the incredible array of resources that were pulled together for this event. There was a panel of pediatricians, demos of the latest gear, advisors on family estate planning, book signings, local and long-distance businesses—from preschools to play spaces to a start-up offering the latest technology in baby spoons.
I think it’s fantastic, but I can’t help but wonder about the resources for parents of tweens and teens. It seems like parents’ magazines pay less attention to the issues and needs of older kids, and some people may even think we have it all figured out. Really? Do we have it all figured out?
I called my friend Jessica to get her take on this. I met Jess 14 years ago, just a month or two after my daughter was born, at a new-parent support group. Arlene Eisenberg, who cocreated the What to Expect book series, led a weekly Q&A to help us struggling new parents and to keep in tune with our concerns. I made some of my closest mom friends through that support group. Before I met these women, I admit, I felt pretty lost.
Jess and I compared this issue of resources—or lack thereof—for teens and tweens vs. babies and came up with a few ideas. Here are some differences.
1. Money. The number of businesses out there targeting parents with babies is mind-boggling. For teens and tweens there seem to be lots of test-prep companies as well as camps, but for babies products and services are all across the board. This is actually good news for us parents of older kids. I mean, who needs all that stuff crowding up our homes? Plus the businesses we need are out there, they’re just not as obvious.
2. Shared Issues vs. Specialized Concerns. A lot of new parents share the same concerns about their babies, from feeding and sleeping issues to diapering and teething. But the needs of tweens and teens are more specific to the individual person, as they are discovering who they are and want to be. Parents’ concerns are no longer focused only on the basic necessities but on more specialized issues. Your daughter might require extra help in math or have to wear a retainer, or she might want to volunteer to help the elderly, but those concerns are very specific to her.
3. Bigger Kids, Bigger Problems. The problems we faced as new parents caring for these tiny fragile people seemed momentous. But now most of those issues seem so contained compared to teen and tween problems. Even if it’s just parental anxiety about what might happen (because actually things are going pretty okay), that’s pretty stressful. Parents of older kids may worry about issues ranging from overuse of the Internet, to bullying, to eating disorders, to dating and homework stress and so much more. It can seem like we don’t have anywhere to turn for answers.
4. Support Systems. Even though there are a ton of resources available for new parents, these newbies often feel isolated. They don’t realize what’s available, and that’s why an expo can be such a great resource. Parents of tweens and teens have the friendships we’ve made over the years through our children. We have their schools as support systems. Schools offer clubs and teams and have Parent-Teacher Associations gathering experts to speak on issues we’re concerned with. Some recent meetings in high schools around my neighborhood have dealt with eating disorders, bullying—both kid-on-kid and kid-on-parent as well as cyberbullying—saving for college and substance abuse. School counselors are available to meet with students and/or their parents one-on-one.
I really enjoyed the expo. It was like being in a time machine and seeing my husband and kids when this whole parenting world was new and we needed everything. As for life with teens and tweens, Jess and I figured out that although we don’t have it all figured out, we have support systems, including friendships and schools, that are kind of like mini expos we can go to anytime. They’re unmistakable resources that make our lives a lot easier.
Jill Caryl Weiner is a New York–based writer whose work has appeared in Mom365.com, New York Magazine, Time Out New York Kids and The New York Times.