Advice about Parenting Teenagers
Archived Q&A and Reviews
- Feeling resentful about teen's academic & social failures
- Teens are unhappy and critical of my parenting
- Dealing with the stress of living with a teenager
- Reflections on my daughter's 18th birthday
- Co-Parenting after Divorce
Are there any support groups, and, if not, any therapists interested in starting one, for families of underachieving, acting out teens? My daughter just can't get her act together academically and socially despite my trying a myriad of approaches for years. Starting in elementary school and now while in high school: social skills groups, classes/lessons to support her musical talents, tutoring/mentoring, meeting and communicating regularly with her teachers in school, finally starting medication for ADHD a few months ago, offering therapy, etc.
I am on an emotional roller coaster-feeling good when it looks like she's turned the corner and is managing things better, then feeling quite down when she lets her grade slip from an A to a D and she says she has to time to bring it back up. (BTW, there is no pressure to get As, Bs and Cs are great.) It's at the point where I feel like I am making most of the effort and very little is coming from her. At times I feel like I'm being had and feel incredibly let down and resentful. It's hard to feel loving and be generous when there is so little effort on her part. She feels my disappointment is not justified, minimizes where she has fallen short of her responsibilities, and often has a rather skewed perception of reality.
I know there are support groups for families with kids in programs, but what about families on the cusp? Not severe enough issues for a residential program, yet unrelenting academic and social issues. Anything? Another reason a support group appeals is because it's hard hearing about my friend's kids' successes as well as seeing other difficult kids get their act together, while my child continues to struggle.
Responses that include recommendations, shared experiences, what you've found helpful, etc., will all be appreciated. Thanks. Nearly tapped out mom
I agree, there is little to nothing out there for parents and teens ''on the cusp.'' It is a tough place and we have navigated it for 19 years. I too wish there was something. But i can offer this: Our college son has ADHD and a touch of dyslexia ( mitigated quite a bit with tons of work in elem. school) and while it is never smooth sailing, it is getting better. There were many times that we were tapped out, end of rope, etc. He pulled some doozies. But know you are not alone by a long shot. Stay the course. You are in fact almost at the good part. & I can share that my guy is now a soph. in college and is doing OK. He is so proud to be at CU Boulder, a big state university, his top choice. He does get some accomodations, like extra time, non-distracting testing environment. ( We applied for these ourselves, a bit of work but no too bad, schools seem pretty used to this). So far has to drop at least one class each semester for various reasons. He has to put a lot of time in to get a B average, but is starting to see the benefits. Freshman year was touch and go grade wise and otherwise.Textbook last minute, play now work later ADHD. It continues to be infuriating, in a lot of areas, but we are now at age 19 1/2 seeing growth. He has had a few nice solid relationships and has had a job after school in HS & every Summer for 4 years and even works a little at college. We also see other kids he knows dropping out, coming home, etc. So we feel lucky and a bit wary. It was not any one thing that he, or we did. But I guess we just kept at it. We are hard core against all substance abuse & continue to be a pain in the butt, much to his dismay. We supported his areas of strength like skiing and art( he is a design major). He is growing up, taking pride in his accomplishments. I'll bet your daughter will too. Hang in there. Vicki
Kaiser Richmond has a social skills group called the Young Teen Group. It is an eight week program. It ended a few weeks ago but will begin again when more people sign up. Some topics include: making friends, dealing with bullying and communication. Sherri
My family is divided. They don't seem happy and I don't know if they ever will be. I have two kids, 17 & 20. They are not speaking to each other. They are both critical of each other & both equally critical of my parenting. It's a stretch of time almost devoid of joy. They have two loving, doting, hardworking parents, albeit seperated. They have been educated, fed, clothed, entertained, protected, understood and adored their entire lives. Though no kid remembers their childhood, I do remember always being an advocate and solid support through all the many stages of their development; sports teams, field trips, summer camp, parent volunteer, vacations to beautiful places - you name it. Now there is no way to recognize the enormous amount of effort we put in to their security and happiness. I want to mend my family. Does it get easier/better naturally? We would consider family counseling, and have been each to see our own therapists in the past, but presently our insurance is limited, as is our income. We have great doctors, supportive friends & family. Parenting babies, toddlers, kids and preteens was a breeze compared to parenting these age children. A happy future is hard to see. Wants to be Happy!
Happiness, is an important emotional state, but generally even if people are happy with their lives, they usually are not happy all the time.
My advice is it sounds like your family has ''squabbling, communication'' issues, not so much ''divided''. You have to be together at some level just to argue or criticize.
I am not minimizing how unpleasant this is as a way of life, or your needs, as we grow older I seem to think finding balance, internal and external is even more pressing.
Fact : not all siblings are buddies. Some siblings really never get along.
My suggestion: Accept your children for who they are right now. Look to yourself, and find your own happiness, model happiness in your behavior, speech, and life at all times. Have no expectations whether they will express any appreciation for your efforts, since it is possible they will get worse before they get better.
Look at your budget and see if you can cut something out you do not need: vacations, movies, new clothes, coffee out, food out. Unless you are already at ''bare bones'' the money may be there to pay for counseling for the kids, just the sacrifices may require you to give up some of the things that give you relief from their attitudes and bickering.
Some kids fight as children and become closer as adults. Some siblings never ever talk to each other when given the option. If they are doing things that are physically threatening to each other or you then you are obligated to seek professional interventions until they leave your residence and reach legal age.
Raising kids is a really hard job. Hats off to you for asking for support. Keep looking. The Bay Area has many options. The hardest thing will be figuring out what you can do, what your limits are, and what they need to do on their own.
Conflict resolution courses, self help strategies may be a good way to start. You do not have to be perfect at it, just make progress. Good luck another mom
I wish I had an answer for you but in fact I am in a very similar boat although I am divorced and a single parent. I hope someone has some answers!! You are not alone. where did I go wrong?
To the parent with the 17 and 20 year olds missing happiness-- I know exactly where you've been and it is horrible, sad and hard. What your children are doing right now isn't your fault. When my son started acting out after his father and I split up (my son had a childhood similar to the one you describe for your children), I wanted to take responsibility for what he said and did rather than expecting him to take responsibility for his actions that were hurtful, bad for our family and bad for him. If I could go back in time and speak to my broken-hearted self who missed that loving sweet boy that I had known and nurtured his whole life, I would say- you get to set some boundaries around behavior even when they're all grown up. You get to say the way your sons are acting toward each other or you is not okay- You expect more from them than that. I think the hope for happiness comes after you insist on respect. In our case, my son is now 23, I finally took my own advice, and we are happier now. Been there, done that in Berkeley
My daughter is chronologically a pre-teen (almost 12), but biologically and hormonally pubescent. I'm a single mom by choice so there's no other parent on alternate weekends, let alone at home. I am already finding dealing with the mood swings and absent-mindedness extremely stressful, and I know I am not handling it well. Nearly everything I have to say to my daughter is a correction or criticism and I'm on the verge of tears frequently. That's obviously not good for her or for our relationship. On the other hand, if I had a roommate like my daughter, I'd move. Can anyone recommend particularly helpful books to help me get through the next 6-plus years? Better still, are there any support groups? L.
Oh I feel your pain!! My daughter is 16!! I'm single also, but get breaks. Breaks are good. Better than books even! I can't recommend a book or a group, but I get through it in several ways: I talk with friends who have the same age children and commisserate (it helps), I go to therapy for myself periodically, we have gone to therapy together too (art therapy was great!!), and I try and take lots of deep breaths without hyperventilating! She will be like this for a while. Patience is a big factor as is being semi-detached about certain things for getting along with your teenager. Reminding yourself of this all the time is good too! When you talk with her, sometimes you have to be an ear only. She will talk to you more about what's going on with her as the years roll on if she knows that you are not going to judge her or criticize her after she's said her piece. You are balancing on a tightrope now
You have to be her friend, her mother, her jailer, and her escape partner! What I mean by that is sometimes you will need to rein her in to make sure she's safe and healthy, and other times you will have to be the one she can escape her crazy teen-age life with by going on a fun adventure together. You will have to be there when she's a mess and crying and doesn't know what to do because she's had a fight with a friend, and you will have to figure out the right thing to say to help her keep going. You also have a take a lot of gruff!! (That's the not-nice part. That's when detachment can come in handy.) I swear this period has been the HARDEST part of raising a child, for me at least!
But I try to keep an open mind, and change when the situation calls for it. I apologize when I've not done something the best way I could've and next time do it again differently. I look at this as a growth period for myself too. I don't think of myself as ''finished'', life has much more to offer and for me to learn from, even my daughter! Try to eat well, and get excercise. Don't let the stress build up. Teenagers are very sensitive and can feel all of our stuff too.
Make some basic rules for the house, start slow and repeat yourself like a broken record for the next 6 years! Sometimes I have to laugh at the whole thing too!! My daughter had it hard from 12-15 and now she seems to be have a better sense of herself. We get along great for the most part. I totally admire her. She's smart, sensitive, beautiful, and funny. She's also a slob, she walks as fast as a snail, is late, and talks back to me sometimes. But hey, we're not perfect, ever! living breathing mom of a living breathing 16-y.o. daughter!
Good for you for reaching out for support. I think it is the key to making it through. My daughter went into the teenage dark side at 12, emerged again when she was 14, and now, at 16, is a pleasure. If you had talked to me when she was 13, and told me that I would say that 3 years later, I would have laughed bitterly and never believed you. Now my son, at 14, is starting to descend, and I'm bracing myself. But have faith, they do come back. It was actually your roomate analogy that prompted me to respond. I used to say that all the time. I think one thing that helped me immmensely was having close friends to whom I could really vent. No need to hedge with ''of course I love her, but...'' They knew I loved her, and were fine with me letting out the rage I frequently felt and calling her a bitch (which is exactly how she was behaving...) When the kids were toddlers, we could all bond in the park over tantrums and picky eating. But with teens, parents seem to be not so close anymore, or afraid to really talk about what is happening in their families. So build your own support group if you can't find one.
Another thing that helped was learning to bite my tongue, intensely. It got so that we would have car drives with no words spoken fairly often. It was better than some innoccuous comment from me setting her off in some mean or negative direction. Music is good -- you are listening to it together. Actually, cultivate any activities you can do together that do not require talking. When she is ready to talk, of course you drop everything to listen and talk back. But sometimes, silence is golden.
There's a book by Micheal Reira we found very helpful, Uncommon Sense for Parents of Teenagers. The info is good, and the tone is very grounding.
Good luck. These are heavy lifting years for parents, but you and she will get through them together. anon, of course
I want to appreciate the wonderful responses so far. I remember that when I was 17 my parents were the most irritating people in the world, and it took me 20 years to get past that. This past year we've struggled with Events
Involving Really Bad Teen Judgment by my son (a junior), and our ineffective attempts at consequences and reasonable restrictions like curfews. My husband was upset to think that we were bad parents/citizens, but reassured after he checked in and found that almost all parents he knew have had even more grief and conflict, from teens we'd least suspect of it.
Our family therapist acknowledged our outrage that our son was an obnoxious slobby roommate with misplaced feelings of entitlement, making stupid mistakes (like not studying or getting enough sleep or handling his money well), and not a dutiful child mirroring our values. He also pointed out that our son's mistakes hadn't involved the police or personal injury or pregnancy or substance abuse, and that our son's grades (while slipping) and his health and potential were still excellent.
We took a deep breath and shipped him off to be away from us for 8 weeks, to live at a dorm and take summer college classes. It has been a wonderful thing for our son to be on his own, and clearly the right thing for all of us. He loves his big new world. He can be polite and cheerful in his infrequent contacts with us; we can be more accepting of his autonomy and confident of his safety. We're hoping that this will help us all survive his senior year together. another parent holding on
Boy, can I relate! I have a 12-year-old teenage too, and she's made life so stressful I sometimes feel like crying, too. You can find online support groups for parenting teens.
I love to read and have found these books that are helping me get through this phase (oh, gosh, 6 years?!) These should be available at the public library.
Get Out of My Life, But First Would You Drive Me and Cheryl to the Mall? When We're in Public, Could You Pretend You Don't Know Me? Ophelia's Mom: Loving and Letting Go Girl in the Mirror Why Do They Act That Way? (great book on the way teenage brain development leads to behaviors) Don't Give Me That Attitude! 24 Rude, Selfish, Insensitive Things Kids Do and How to Stop Them
I admire you for asking for support. Hang on. We'll all help each other get through this. Nancy
My daughter turns 18 this month and this has occasioned some reflection on my part about the task of being the parent of a teenager. She is my first- born; I still have a 15-year old son to fret over, so my work is not yet complete. But 18 is something special, not just another birthday.
As I have thought about the past five years (or more? she was certainly a teenager well before she was 13), the metaphor that sticks in my mind is that being the parent of a teenager is like delivering them all over again: the awe, wonder, joy, sense of accomplishment, and deep, overwhelming, all- consuming adoration of this new human being are all as fresh as they were 18 years ago. But there is also a lot of pain and a certain amount of blood on the floor.
As I\xc2\x92ve read through the \xc2\x93Parents of Teens\xc2\x94 entries over the years, there have been times when I\xc2\x92ve been smug and arrogant\xc2\x97what\xc2\x92s wrong with these people? We don\xc2\x92t have problems like that, why don\xc2\x92t they just do it the way we did? And there have been other times when I have felt guilty, hidden, and alone: surely no other child has been as you-name-the adjective (deceitful, lazy, thoughtless, messy, mean, etc.), and no other parent has been as helpless, as ineffectual, as bewildered, heartbroken, or betrayed by the actions of the child who came out of her own body.
To all of you who have shared this journey with us and especially to those who are still delivering: the fact is that most of these children survive being teenagers and most of us parents do too. The path is never what we expected or imagined, and many of our children will not be quite the people that we thought we wanted them to be. But they are also far more than we ever dared to hope and dream in so many ways. Mostly, they are a gift and they are a labor.
To my daughter (and you know who you are), I would like to say that you have always been and will always be the light of my life. I carried you in my heart long before I found the right partner to allow to be your father and I will carry you in my heart long after it stops beating, and yours stops beating, and your father\xc2\x92s and brother\xc2\x92s and children\xc2\x92s stop beating. You are a magnificent person\xc2\x97full of flaws, full of feeling, still becoming, but also, already, magnificent. Fly free, my child, fly free and high and be only as afraid as you need to be in order to be safe.
But first, turn off the TV, do your homework, finish your college apps, and clean your room.
Happy Birth Day and much love, from your mother. anonymous