As the mother of three teenagers, I’ve come to realize two very important things about life when your child starts becoming a teen. One, no matter how much you try to prepare for it, the “teen” in your child will sneak up on you. Like a great white shark coming in for the kill. And two, if you don’t keep a sense of humor about it, you’ll be blindsided and swallowed whole like an unsuspecting plankton swimming blissfully in the ocean.
The Teen Years: Teenage Parenting Tips
I don’t mean to be quite so melodramatic. Truth be told, life as a parent of a teenager isn’t really so bad, if you’re prepared, that is. Here are 10 things that will help:
1. Buy Deodorant (The Industrial Strength Kind)
Step into any boys’ middle school locker room and you’ll understand what I’m talking about. Teens are just downright smelly. They haven’t quite adjusted to the idea that they even need deodorant, let alone remembering to use it every day. And, if you’re not careful, the wafting of the odor has a way of permeating every crevice of your house, so it’s a good idea to stock up.
2. Buy a Bigger Laundry Basket
Teenagers love changing clothes—a lot. And, since they have absolutely no recollection of what they’ve actually worn versus what was tried on, they typically end up throwing everything that was on their bedroom floor in the laundry basket (warning: clothes only end up in the laundry basket after you ask, loudly, 50 or so times). So, a good rule of thumb here is, the bigger the laundry basket, the better.
3. Get a Bigger Car for Groceries
Teenagers are eating machines. From the moment they wake up until the time they go to bed, they’re eating or munching on something. So, for all you small car owners out there, you might want to consider trading it in for a larger vehicle—something capable of holding the size of a small canoe. Or get used to packing your little car to the ceiling with those Costco-sized boxes.
4. Shut Their Bedroom Door
I honestly can’t emphasize this enough. When a child turns into a teenager their brain is apparently so busy growing that certain tasks that they once knew how to perform quite well are temporarily placed in a holding file until they reach adulthood. Things like folding clothes, putting things away in a drawer, putting the shampoo top back on the bottle and replacing the toilet paper roll is a thing of the past. The important thing here is not to panic. If the pile of stuff on their floor is less than six inches deep, you’re actually doing alright.
5. Be Prepared to Cash Out Big Bucks for Cell Phones
In the last six years, my husband and I have hashed out cash for ten cell phones. No kidding. Teens are clumsy—and forgetful. If they aren’t accidentally dropping their phone in the toilet or jumping in the pool with it, they’re dropping it on the concrete or smashing it in the door. Even if you’re one of the lucky ones who has a teen that isn’t clumsy or forgetful with their phone, don’t get too excited. You’re still not out of the woods. Chances are you’ll constantly be asked to buy the latest and greatest cell phone every couple of years.
6. Brace Yourself for Less Eye Contact
If you thought for one moment that your child would continue to interact with you like a normal human being once they become a teenager, you might want to brace yourself. Their phones take center stage as their new best friend. There’s an invisible tether that bonds the two together like glue. Try to separate them and you’ll regret it.
7. Throw the Word “Clean” Completely Out of Your Vocabulary
I used to take pride in my home. I loved the sparkle of a clean kitchen and I loved seeing those tracks in the carpeting when I finished vacuuming. Now, I strive to clean just one room at a time which means that on any given day, my entire house is never clean all at the same time. It’s a trade-off, teens or a clean house. The two shall never meet.
8. Track Them So You Don’t Lose Them
While some parents opt not to use this mechanism to keep tabs on their kids, I for one, find it very useful and comforting. Without it, I’m sure I’d lose them in the abyss. Just like they were when they were toddlers, they never stay put for very long. They may tell you that they’re going to their friend’s house for the afternoon. What they aren’t telling you is that they’re actually going to twelve different friend’s houses. Keeping up with them once they start driving is like trying to chase a racehorse in a golf cart. It’s just not going to happen.
9. Buy a Dog
Teenagers aren’t big on affection. Oh, sure, every once in a while you’ll get a two pat on the back or a “hey mom, will you rub my back?” (which, of course, you jump at the chance) but, more often than not, they’re far too “cool” to be giving and receiving any form of affection. Your best bet is to buy a dog. At least that way you’ll have someone who greets you when you walk in the door.
10. Tell Yourself Over and Over “This Too Shall Pass”
Life with teenagers can be challenging and exhausting, but it can also be extremely rewarding and fun. Try not to sweat the small stuff, pick your mountains to die on carefully, listen before you react and relish in the changes in their lives. Most importantly, when you do have challenging days, keep telling yourself over and over, “this too shall pass,” and keep it in perspective. You may not realize it now parents, but you’re going to miss the crazy, tumultuous time we call the teen years.