I thought I was mentally and emotionally prepared to deal with the ups and downs of raising teens. I was quite a difficult teenager myself, trying to make heads or tails of my mood swings, depression and an eating disorder. But when my kids, now 18, 16 and 15, entered the teen years, the abrupt and unexpected challenges caught me off-guard, and I felt like I´d never survive this time of their lives unscathed. While I´m certainly not out of the woods yet, as you can gauge from their ages, I feel better prepared to handle the challenges parenting teens entails, thanks to a couple of books that I read from cover to cover (more than once) and that I turn to in times of need.
The Grown Up´s Guide to Teenage Humans
This book by motivational youth speaker and teen expert Josh Shipp is filled with common-sense information and suggestions. It doesn´t have a religious or moralistic undertone, which I really appreciate. It doesn´t talk to the parent like we´re morons or like we´re doing it all wrong. That was quite refreshing. Shipp was raised in foster care and was once a problem teen himself. He is able to give real-life examples and has experience on both sides of the fence. All the chapters were extremely helpful, but the one that gave me the most insight was the one where he shares the letter a teen would write to his or her parents if he or she could.
I only wish I had read this book before I was in the throes of parenting despair, but it helped me get through it all. By realizing that what kids say they want and what they really want is different, I was able to toss away my fears of my kids not loving me if set down my foot once and for all. It worked! Instead of giving in to their shenanigans, I made decisions, set boundaries and rules and refused to give up on my eldest, even if it meant she would hate me forever. Well, she doesn´t hate me, and now thanks me for being the adult when one of us clearly had to take the reins. Now when the two youngest show signs of the inevitable teen struggle, I know where to turn for help.
Untangled: Guiding Teenage Girls Through the Seven Transitions into Adulthood
Untangled, by Lisa Damour, offered an insigtful read into my daughters´ worlds. The most important message I got from the book is that if a kid is not trying to rebel in some way in his or her teens, and separate from the parents, that may not be a good sign. Some kids rebel in small ways, like dyeing their hair shocking colors, or listening to music we can´t stand, and others do it in big and more risky ways like taking drugs. Damour explains that it´s possibly healthy to have a little bickering with them about that purple hair color, because if you don´t show some sign of resistance, teens are going to push and push your boundaries until you snap. If your threshold for snapping is high, they may be too far gone by the time you react. I found this extremely interesting and helpful.
I honestly don´t care how my kids wear their hair as long as they are good, respectful kids with a good moral compass. But I could see her point, and this is helping me be a way more conscious parent. I also know that I shouldn´t take my kids´ acting out personally. It´s my job to be there for them and as I mentioned above, set rules and boundaries. The mom, especially, is usually the rock the kids come back to hold on to after going out for a swim in the ocean of life and it can be quite the ride for us, so I find it a great read for mothers. This book also addresses raising LGBT kids (I am in that situation), which I found particularly helpful!
I´ve searched high and low for books that would give me useful information for this stage of parenting and so far, these are top of my list. If you know of any others, please share them in the comments!