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Surviving the Adult Teen Years: One Mom’s Two Cents

One mom’s two cents to get you through those last few tumultuous adult teen years.

Parenting is hard. Parenting adult teens is hella hardest. And those last few years will rattle any resolve you have left. Teenagers talk back. They have their own opinions and want them to be heard.They know everything. Handling teens, especially the adult ones, requires a skill set that includes full body and mouth restraint, telepathic mind meld and a saintly patience reserve. In other words, it’s almost impossible.

In their defense however, your child is navigating the toughest emotional growth spurt of their lives. Adult teens are still holding onto the nurturing comforts of childhood while eagerly (and prematurely) wanting to grab the shiny brass ring of the good parts (only) of adulthood.

Everything is constantly changing.

Insert gray area # 236. Because older, adult teens are continually discovering ‘who they are’, we need to do a very delicate fire walk around these ever-evolving epiphanies, so, there are pretty sizable learning curves on both sides. As our kids morph into adulthood, we’re out here fielding these bumpy grounders and sudden fly balls, too. We are learning to give them room to fall and fail and grow even though it goes against every instinct in our body. I am 50. My mom is 76. She still tries to shield me from pain, worry and fear and, honestly, sometimes I still need that. We all need a little protecting, and it’s natural to want to provide that shelter to our kids/children through every stage.

Full disclosure: the adult teen years are going to break you a few times, but surviving it leads to the sweetest reward. Most of it isn’t their fault really. And if we can keep our focus on that, along with a few other mantras in our mind meld tool kit, we can get to the other side: adulthood.

It’s worse for them. Give your older teenagers some slack.

Older Teens are in limbo. They are no longer children, but neither are they mature adults. They can flip between one and the other depending on the social situation, immediate stressor or day of the week. Their emotions can range from toddler to emo within seconds, and they are in the bodies of grown ups. This is confusing for anyone. Add hormones. Brace for impact.

Keep an open mind and open communication.

Adult teenagers are going to challenge the way you think, act and speak – but we have to let them express themselves. It’s part of growing up and it’s important for taking their mindset temperature. Be willing to adjust your thinking where you can. Oh, and their curfew, but let them gently know that you are adjusting and learning here, too.

Listen Well

Let your teen speak and listen intently. Don’t interrupt. It drives them just as crazy as it does you. React slowly. It will buy you time–you need it to prepare. Process before weighing in. “I hear you and I will absolutely think about that.” Some respect you get just from passing go, but the rest has to be earned–on both sides. 

Show up & pay attention. Know what’s going on.

Continue to learn about things your adult teen is interested in. Keep asking the questions: How is it going at school? Can I help you with anything? What can I do for you? Have you talked to (blank)? How is work? What’s going on with (be specific.)

You’re the adult. You’ve walked this road. Now help them down it.

You are still going to have to say no when it’s ultimately what they need. You’re the most seasoned and experienced one in the room. Even though you will still feel helpless, feeble and inadequate sometimes. This is a very normal part of adulthood. Now, think back to what it was like to be a teen. Were you great to your parents? Respectful, kind and perfect? You absolutely were not and you turned out okay. Call your parents and thank them for not giving up on you.

Love your adult teens unconditionally.

This is it. The Commandment. The Golden Rule. We are the granters of unending do-overs.

Parenting is a lot like laundry. Stuff gets dirty again and again. You wash it and fold it, full-well knowing that you’re going to be back at it the next day and the day after that. This is what we signed up for. This is parenting. They didn’t ask to be here. We owe them this one.

In a few months my adult teen will be away at college. On her own, maneuvering a whole new world and we’ll both be back at it again. It’s a constant evolution. There’s no end date or time limit on this. Hopefully though, we both never stop growing.

Juli Schafer

Juli is a non-fiction writer based in northern Virginia. She is a freelance contributor for the Television Academy and on her own time writes to encourage herself and other women that the best is always still ahead. She’s has courted and broken up with body issues, depression and emotional numbing, and is working on limited visitation with over-sensitivity, comparison and feeling ‘less than.’ After graduating from Penn State University, dreams of being a magazine writer-editor uprooted her to the Washington DC area, but stiff competition and some aforementioned demon-battling shifted those dreams to a reality in entrepreneurship. Fast forward several small businesses and a few decades later: she and her husband currently run a from-scratch restaurant and cupcake bakery, but she doesn’t bake or cook. Talk about a bloom-where-you’re-planted story. She has one child, Abby, 18, who lights up the world. She is on fire for the power of connection and freedom we get from sharing our stories, making peace with our quirks and REALly living.

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