"I found myself doubting every turn. I mentally beat myself up because I thought I should know what I was doing by now."

By Katie Bingham-Smith
Photo by Getty Images

When you plan to do something new in your life, you plan for it. This usually involves lots of thinking, talking, and reading about the upcoming events.

You make lists, you ask for advice, you ask yourself if you are truly ready, you get really excited, then doubt yourself. This process is repeated over and over, then we delve into it, as ready as we can possibly be.

Parenthood is no different. We do what we can to prepare and learn along the way through trial and error and let's face it, some major screw ups which make us feel like failures—many we don't even want to share with anyone.

But so many of us think just because we have been a parent for a few years, we should just get it. We should know the ropes. We should be prepared. We shouldn't have seen it coming. We should have handled this that and the other differently because we should know by now.

The problem is, as soon as our kids go through one stage and we begin to navigate our way through it, our kids change. Then we changed, what the neighborhood's kids are doing changes, and what is "the right thing to do" changes.

The one thing that threw me off the rails as a parent was when my kids entered the teens years. I found myself doubting every turn and mentally beat myself up because I thought I should know what I was doing by now.

After all, I had been a parent for 13 years so why did this feel so foreign?

But I'd never been a parent to a teen before. And that is an undertaking that forces you to rethink your parenting approach almost daily.

Your kids may have changed from a boisterous being who shares every detail with you, to shutting down every day after school and retreating to their rooms.

They are pulling away from you, and their social circle (and what the people in their social circle think about them), are taking a front seat.

A lot of what you do for them us ignored or under appreciated.  The worry, the angst, the self-doubt that floats around in your head is exhausting.

Just because you don't hear about a fellow parent of teens having struggles doesn't mean they aren't having them.

There's no cruising through the teen years. This is are our rust starts to show and we feel like we want to stop off at a rest area that doesn't exist. These are the years we need more maintenance and need to be flexible when we crash and burn, and believe me, we are all crashing and burning.

Just remember, even if you've read all the books, asked for all the advice, and feel like you have no idea what you are doing, none of us do, so maybe you can find comfort in the fact you aren't the only one.

Our kids are all different and will hit different stages at different times. Some of the time we are able to help and know we are making a difference in our kids' lives for the better.

But the teen years bring up so many unknowns—for our children and for us. There are a lot of gray areas that leave us wondering if we are raising them to be independent and responsible while making sure they don't have freedoms they can't handle yet.

They will test us, break our trust, and some days will be unrecognizable.

So many of us are left alone with our thoughts wondering if it's this hard for everyone. I'm here to tell you, it is. It absolutely is.

Stop beating yourself and thinking all the other parents have it pulled together. We are all looking for (nonexistent) directions on how to raise teenagers. After all, I've never talked to a parent who said they were totally prepared for the teen years and nailed them. Have you?

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