A Letter to Parents of Teens: When You Need Help Speak Up
One mom writes a letter to fellow parents to remind them that they can't do it ALL on their own. Adulting is hard, but parenting is harder.
Dear fellow parents of teens,
I just dropped my youngest son off at camp and I feel terrible—he was upset because a few of his friends who said they were going to sign up too weren't there yet.
I assured him they were coming, and this would be great practice for him since he was attending middle school next year.
Then I reminded him how outgoing he was and how this might be the best week of his life since sometimes the happiest moments are the unexpected ones. As I sat there and watched him be brave and make his way to a group of kids he didn't know, I picked up my phone and sent a message to his friend's mom:
"Please tell me you are still dropping Michael off at camp today because Jack is struggling," I wrote.
She got right back to me and assured me her daughter would be dropping her son off and he and Jack would have each other this week. She understood the struggle, and I knew she would when I reached out to her. I drove away knowing my son would be fine and would relax a bit when he saw his friend in a few short minutes.
I'm telling you this because I know so many of you were in this position, or a similar one, when your kids were younger, and it seemed like second nature to ask for help or some reassurance, right?
Then they grew up a bit, became teenagers, and you found yourselves a little lost. As a parent, you aren't always sure what's going on with your child. This can make you shy away from asking other parents if they've ever gone through what you are experiencing, which can make you feel shameful and think:
"This is my kid, shouldn't I know what's happening in their life and what to do about it?"
And your teenager has begun to pull away, experiment, hide things from you, become engrossed in their phone and a world you want to know more about, but you don't.
You want to reach out and ask for help—maybe even more now than you did when you were suffering through the terrible ages of two, three, and four, dealing with tantrums, potty training, and sleep issues.
I'm not saying these problems are small, but it feels a lot safer to talk about them to fellow parents than asking the woman next to you in the PTA meeting if they have noticed their teenager wants nothing to do with them and spends almost all their time at home in their room, or they've given up on their favorite sport, or you are worried they are depressed.
I'm sure there have been many times since your child has blossomed into a teen you've wondered things like:
Who is this child? Is that the way they are behaving? Are we the only ones going through this?
I am here to say you absolutely are not the only one going through this. Believe me, I have two. It's totally normal to feel that way and not want to reach out and ask for help from family, friends, or fellow parents.
Being a parent to a teenager is a whole different ball game than when they were younger. Many parents are trying to figure out how to play alone.
We walk around with a mask pretending everyone is happy, and we know what we are doing. But the truth is, being a parent to a teenager is hard for everyone. So please know you are not alone.
After I started being more open about what was really going on in our house—the moods, the isolation, the bad attitudes, and the fact my kids seemed to forget all of their manners and act like they were the only humans on this earth, I got a lot more support than I did by not talking about it, that’s for sure.
Sometimes it came in the form of, "Oh yes, those years were so hard for me too. I wanted to tear my hair out. Hang in there."
Sometimes it came by someone just listening to you and what you and your child are struggling with.
And then there are the times when someone tells you something that really hits home and shares a private story with you about their struggle and how they got through it.
Yes, there are books and articles to read. And sure, I've found therapists to be a wonderful resource. But there has been nothing like hearing from another parent that you are still doing a good job, this is normal, and keep trying because it will all turn out okay.
So, from one parent of a teen to another: You are not alone, hang in there, you are doing a great job, and the kids (and you) are going to be okay.
A parent of teens who is trying to find her way, too.
Katie Bingham-Smith lives in Maine and is a full-time freelance writer. She's writes about all things parenting, food, and fashion.