Recent birthdays here at Middle-aged Towers saw teen son turn 20 and teen daughter 18, so we are now officially a house full of adults. Although most adults I know don’t live in rooms that resemble squats and tend to eat more than two types of vegetable, but small steps people, small steps.
Over the last 20 years I have come to realise that each phase in a childs life seems never ending until you are out of the other side and then immediately wonder what all the fuss was about. From worrying if they were breast feeding properly, being convinced they were future serial killers when they bit everyone at playgroup, comparing them to classmates who could read and write aged 4, obsessing about their lack of friends/agruements with friends/ unsuitable friends, stressing about SATS, endlessly discussing the pros and cons of local secondary schools, nagging about GCSE’s, AS and A levels and resorting to stalking them on social media to find out what they were actually up to at weekends – the list of things to stress about seems endless and ever changing.
I doubt we will ever stop worrying about our children, but as they age, the benefit of hindsight is a wonderful thing. For me the teenage years have been enlightening and lots of fun – don’t get me wrong, 15 was a tricky age for both teens and involved lots of arguements and furious texts well into the small hours – but mostly my teenagers have been pretty easy to get along with and interesting to have around.
Of course we are not out of the woods yet, as we still have A levels to pass and degrees to get, as well as all the dramas that come with relationships and living away from home, but fingers crossed we have a strong enough relationship to get through it all in tact.
Often when friends with younger children ask me about particular phases in my kids lives, I seem to be able to block out the bad and focus on the good, which is perhaps the way to do it. After all no-one wants to look back in anger, but perhaps on reflection I do have a few thoughts for anyone approaching the teenage years with trepidation.
- Always keep the lines of communication open – someone told me this years ago, and it was the best advice I ever had. Even when you don’t want to hear stories of 14 year old friends having sex, or the reasons they think university is a bad idea – don’t over react and kill their ideas/thoughts dead. Listen, discuss and treat them as adults. Everyone needs to be heard, even if they are completely wrong.
- Never say no outright – because whatever the hair brained idea is, saying no will just make them more determined to have their own way and lie. When confronted with a plan for an illegal overnight rave in a forest. Just pose a series of questions without judgement. What will you do if it rains, you need the loo, want to come home etc etc, will be enough to plant the seeds of doubt. Inevitably there will be lots of other parents doing the same (or actually saying no) and eventually the whole group of party ravers will go off the idea and decide they don’t want to go anyway!! Those that do go, will get wet, poo in a hole and spend hours getting home on public transport and your point will be proved, without an arguement.
- Occasionally your teens will actually want you to stay no, as it will be an excuse to get out of something they are uncomfortable with. “My mum says no”, is better than saying “I’m scared”. The tricky thing is to know when this is. It’s usually something that makes you reel in horror and imagine the Daily Mail headline. Your instincts are right, trust them.
- Don’t comment on clothing choices no matter how orange, chavvy, outrageous or boring you think your kids look. They are experimenting and discovering who they are. They are not you and they don’t care if you like what they wear (well they might a little bit). Go shopping with them and try to understand their choices. Standing in the middle of Abbercrombie shouting “why is it so dark and loud in here and all the clothes look the same” will not make for good teen/parent relations! They will come round eventually and stop dressing like an extra from TOWIE and then you really are in trouble, as they may start wearing your clothes………
- If you have a daughter, you will have to knock when you enter her room and practically beg to borrow any of her clothes, make up or appliances. She, however will think anything of yours is automatically hers and may become indignant if you challenge her for touching your stuff. The best way to deal with this is to wait till she has gone to school or sleep and steal your own stuff back. Ideally you should also take some of hers too, to prove a point. My best ever victory involved stealing teen daughters mascara and denying all knowledge of it for two days (which she does to me all the time). Going to school with no mascara when you are 16, is social suicide and there were two days of tears. I felt mean but victorious and when I handed it back she didn’t do it again – for about a week, till she stole my foundation.
- Spend time with your teens. This will usually involve either buying meals or clothes, or if you are lucky a gallery visit, but doing stuff together is important and a great way to bond. Remember how unsure and confused you felt as a teenager – they are no different. They may seem more self assured on the surface, but they still worry about relationships, their future and the way they look, as much as we did and sometimes need someone to talk to. But be wary, they’ll soon catch onto the fact you see lunch as a way of bonding and suggest it on a weekly basis – well into their 20’s.
- Remember what you got up to as a teen and don’t turn into one of those holier than thou parents who over react to everything. They will drink, smoke, possibly experiment with drugs and have relationships with the opposite (or possibly the same) sex. Teenagers have done this since time began and it’s completely normal. As long as they are getting up for school, can hold a conversation around the dinner table and have lots of friends, try not to worry, as just as you are toying with the idea of staging an intervention and calling the Priory, they will stop – and move onto the next phase!!
- And finally enjoy having young people around, they introduce you to new music and films, challenge you when you start dressing or acting like an old (or young) person and are happy to sit on the sofa under a blanket eating chocolate, watching trashy TV. After all, who are you going to watch The Kardashians with when they are gone?