Tweens & Teens: How we can stay close during the pulling-away years

Mamas, we are always on the lookout for great articles and posts that help us navigate the teen years. Shannon and I both have 14-year-olds right now, and my middle kid will be 13 soon, so we need all the tips and insight we can get.

Recently we found this GREAT letter written by Gretchen L. Schmelzer. It’s called The Letter Your Teenager Can’t Write You.”

Wow, it’s a “must-read” for any parent, whether you’ve got a teenager right now or a tiny baby who will one day be a teenager. These words really touched us and they’re such a big help when you’re in the midst of one of “those days” with a teenager.

One of our favorite parts of the letter compares the teen years to holding the end of a rope while your kid tugs at the opposite end. Here’s a few lines we love:rope heart

“I desperately need you to hold the other end of the rope. To hang on tightly while I thrash on the other end—while I find the handholds and footholds in this new world I feel like I am in. I used to know who I was, who you were, who we were. But right now I don’t. Right now I am looking for my edges and I can sometimes only find them when I am pulling on you.”

The letter also acknowledges that we mamas sometimes miss the sweet kid who used to really like us, the one who suddenly morphed into a moody teenager who sometimes says hurtful things.

Most importantly, the letter ends on a hopeful note:

“And this particular fight will end. Like any storm, it will blow over. And I will forget and you will forget. And then it will come back. And I will need you to hang on to the rope again. I will need this over and over for years.

…Please hang on to the other end of the rope. And know that you are doing the most important job that anyone could possibly be doing for me right now.”

Love, Your Teenager

Click HERE to read the letter in full. We’re betting that these words will stick with us through the teen years, which can be tough at times but are SO very important.

If you find a wonderful post or article on the teen years, please share a link with us so we can check it out, too. (Email us at mamas@nwaMotherlode.com.) Like the letter says, we mamas of teens need to stick together and help each other through the rough parts.

Tweens & Teens: Riding the rollercoaster together

Is this guy “the teen whisperer”?

We’re not sure about that, but we really do like some of his videos, which make lot of sense to us. Here’s one about what it means when our teens push and prod us:

Tweens & Teens: This may be the most challenging period of motherhood

Emojigirls 2015

Mothers of middle-schoolers are the most depressed?

Hmm. In a recent article on the website Aeon, researchers claimed that the most challenging period of mothering (and highest levels of depression can be found) during their kid’s middle-school years.

That actually makes sense to us. Yes, you’re exhausted and stressed when the kids are babies, but research shows that moms feel satisfied and fulfilled in caring for their younger children. But then puberty hits and things get a little more complex, to say the least. We have fewer positive interactions — and more challenging situations to help our t(w)eens navigate.

In the article, researchers studied more than 2,200 mothers with children ranging from infants to adults, and examined multiple aspects of mothers’ personal wellbeing, parenting and perceptions of their children.

“Our findings show an inverted-V shape in feelings of stress and depression, with mothers of middle-school children (‘tweens’ aged 11 or 12) consistently faring the most poorly, and mothers of infants and adult children doing the best.”

The article pointed out that mothers are essentially the “first responders” to their child’s distress, and now they must figure out new ways to offer comfort and reassurance. The old ways – hugs, snuggles at bedtime – don’t always work anymore.

Women who saw their children as rude and rejecting were among those who felt most distressed, according to the study.

“A central take-home message from our findings is that the big ‘separation’ from offspring, the one that really hurts, comes not when children leave the nest literally, but when they do this psychologically – in their complex strivings to become grown-ups, in their tweens.”

Also, all this comes at a time when many mothers first see the signs of middle age. Ugh.

Advice? They offer some here (and we agree!):

“… middle-school mothers must also refuel themselves through close, reliable, authentic friendships. In an earlier study, we showed the strong protective potential of these relationships in buffering women through the challenges of motherhood. So mothers should treat it as an imperative, and not an option, to connect with supportive friends, and stick with this resolve especially during the middle-school years. They should use each other as sounding boards. Reach out when feeling frail or exhausted, or just plain fed up. And have fun together.”

The article reminds us that it does get easier: middle-schoolers become high-schoolers, and then adults.

Of course, Gwen and I don’t want to paint too nasty a picture. There are SO MANY good times with tweens and young teenagers, too.

You just have to hold on to the afterglow of those a little longer and do what I (Shannon) do: put pictures of your kids as babies up on the walls so you’ll feel all soft and gooey inside when the teen version is snarling at you. It really does help. {CLICK HERE for more advice about how to keep yourself from back-handing your t(w)ween.}

Thanks to Jennifer Adair for sharing the Aeon article with us!

friends shadow

Tweens & Teens: Social media’s impact on girls

Shannon and I both have 14-year-olds now, so we’re reading everything we can get our hands on about teens and how to navigate those tricky waters. If you have a teen girl, you may want to find this book at the library, American Girls bookbookstore or download the e-book version. It’s called American Girls: Social Media and the Secret Lives of Teenagers.

I recently saw an interview with the book’s author on a talk show, and some of the information she shared is downright disturbing. It made me want to try to convince my daughter to skip social media completely when she gets her own phone one day.

Here’s a brief excerpt from the book’s description: “What does it mean to be a girl in America in 2016? It means coming of age online in a hypersexualized culture that has normalized extreme behavior, from pornography to the casual exchange of nude photographs; a culture rife with a virulent new strain of sexism and a sometimes self-undermining notion of feminist empowerment; a culture in which teenagers are spending so much time on technology and social media that they are not developing basic communication skills.”

Yikes! Written by an award-winning journalist who is also a mother to a daughter, the book has earned a 4 1/2 star rating on Amazon and was called “an ice-cold, important wake-up call” by Kirkus Reviews.

If you’ve read other books on the teen years that you think would be helpful to moms, let us know about them! We’d love to swap tips on the best research and insights about how to guide kids through the tween and teen years.

 

Tweens & Teens: My teenager vented about me on Instagram

tweens teens

Dear t(w)een moms,

My teenager recently vented about me on Instagram and I happened to see it. When I looked the next day (I was still trying to figure out how to handle it) she had deleted it. So what to do if your kid says something negative about you on social media? I’m open to your ideas! Thanks :)

mama JYou know that old saying, “if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all”?

Well, that goes for social media too. But it’s not just about me (mom), that goes for anybody. It’s much easier to insist your kids don’t bash you on social media if you don’t condone them bashing others.

Oh, and like everything else in parenting….kids take their lead from YOU.

mama M

I try not to get bent out of shape about things like this. They are teens, and by definition are very ‘in the moment’. Try getting your point across while having a bit of fun.

Post a comment yourself. Maybe embarrass them a tad bit by venting about something yourself.

For example, if it was my teen son I’d take a picture of his dirty underwear on the bathroom floor and post ‘so gross! Doesn’t he know he has to pass the hamper on the way back to his room?!’ And then I’d tag him in it.

mama KGreat question! My thought is to approach it as “help me understand this” rather than reprimanding.

Acknowledge that you saw the post and let her know you’re glad she deleted it, but also seek to understand your daughter. Ask her to be open with you about how she’s feeling rather than making her anger public.