4 Lessons I Learned from Raising Teenagers

Being a mom is challenging every step of the way. Let’s be real. There’s a reason people say it’s the hardest job you’ll ever have. But there’s something uniquely difficult about having teenagers that nothing could have prepared me for.

Every stage of parenting brings with it a unique set of challenges—and joys. I’m sure that when I look back at this stage of my life, I’ll mostly remember the good times, just as I have mostly forgotten the excruciating pain that childbirth brought. But I’m not there yet. I’m in the thick of raising teens, and I’m learning as I go. I wanted to write about my experience precisely because I know I’m not unique. Every single parent bemoans the teenage years. So we might as well learn from each other. In fact, just when I start to feel alone, when I share my story, another parent openly admits they are feeling my exact pain. And since I am freshly coming off my Spring Break with the teens I have a lot on my mind. So let’s share!

Lesson #1. Your children will change—but that doesn’t mean they don’t love you. The biggest surprise about raising teens has been that my sweet, loving children have transformed into young adults that don’t seem to care about me anymore, or at least not that often. Going from being the center of their world to them barely needing me has been a difficult adjustment, to say the least. I thought my kids would always want to hug and kiss me when I walked through the door, so to discover that’s not the case has been crushing at times. But I’ve adjusted my expectations and am learning to connect with my kids in different ways. One of the coolest things about having teenagers is how they have their own passions. I now connect with them over things that they genuinely care about, like football, dance, and soccer. I need to meet them in their passions in order to find that connection I am craving.

Lesson #2. Your kids are learning from you—despite what they say. It’s hard to see the forest through the trees when you’re parenting teens. As a working mom, I’m trying to lead by example. Every single thing I do is for them, and I have to believe they are learning from my tenacity, work ethic, and big dreams. Right now they seem too stubborn to openly appreciate these lessons, but my husband and I certainly hope they will remember them as they get older. Part of the reason I have such a strong work ethic is because growing up, I watched my dad work himself to the bone as an electrician. These are the lessons that take longer to land, but I keep moving forward because I know these lessons will impact them one day.

Lesson #3. Pick your battles—just make sure they’re the right ones. I am constantly teetering between the battle and the war. There are times I want to express my frustration over little things, but it’s just not worth it. The things I tend to choose to discipline my kids about are manners and respect. The eye rolling, facial expressions, tone of voice—however minor others may think that is— to me it is BIG. I don’t spend a ton of time harping on their grades or having a perfectly clean room. They work hard, and that’s all I can ask for. But I am not okay if they don’t excel in being kind. I’m trying to raise good people, and those are the moments I choose to push them. I think these moments are different for every parent, but you have to decide what hill you’re willing to die on, and stick to the boundaries you establish.

Lesson #4. Embrace the not knowing—and enjoy the ride. I like plans. I like strategy. Not knowing how to do something is hard for me. And while it’s true that you can’t really plan for any aspect of parenthood, your kids follow a pretty predictable path for most of childhood. When they become teens, they are becoming their own people, and any guidelines of how to approach parenthood goes out the window. I’m embracing the fact that I have no freaking idea what I’m doing—nobody does, do they? We’re all just figuring it out as we go.

Everything about parenthood is surprising. Everyone warns you. There are a great books and podcasts and tons of experts, but there’s no real way to prepare for it. Parenting teens is stretching me—as a mother and as a person—more than I could have ever expected. Every event in my life that has pushed me like this has ultimately made me a stronger person, and I know this is no different.

Actually, scratch that. It IS different, and the difference is that raising two amazing humans is ultimately one of the most rewarding experiences I’ll ever have, and I am actively working to cherish the moments I do have with them as I watch them develop into young adults.

The hard moments are coupled with the beautiful ones—I couldn’t have the beautiful moments without the rough ones too. I try and remind myself of this when the going gets real rough. (Deep breaths, yoga, and lavender essential oil helps too.)

We’re all in this together, so what tips do you have for raising teens? (No, really. Please let me know.)