I’m a mom of two teens now. While I’m by no means any kind of teen parenting expert, I’ve got a couple of things figured out. And there are a few things that have been completely shocking . . . like, totally unexpected about this stage of parenting.
So if you’re soon to be a parent of teens, I don’t want you to be in the dark. Below are five things no one ever told me about parenting teenagers.
1. It can be lonely.
At ABQ Mom, we regularly get the question, “Why isn’t there more content for moms of teenagers?” Well, there are a few really good answers to that question. Teenagers are big people who can read the Internet. A mom cannot write about details of her family without major backlash. Their lives are private and theirs. (Side note: the things you write about your littles could come back to bite you when they are older. Proceed with caution when writing about kids online, in general.)
Also, every stage of parenting has its challenges. But the hard things during the teenage years are often incredibly weighty. There are problems that are so serious and can have lifelong implications. So even sharing with friends and family is not always possible.
Long gone are the days of commiserating over potty training with a playgroup. (Not that potty training isn’t hard. It really is. But it does not carry the same kind of heaviness or consequences as some of the issues our teens are facing.) A mom of teens really can’t discuss with even her mom friends the heavy, heavy things going on in her teenager’s life. So this season of motherhood can be really lonely.
2. Sleepless nights are a thing again.
Do you remember those baby years when those little sweeties woke up every few hours? Or maybe the toddler years when no matter what time you put them to bed, your kids woke up at 5 am on the dot? Well, mamas, the sleeplessness is about to rear its ugly head again. I hope you really enjoyed some good sleep during the elementary school years.
Teenagers want to stay up late. Duh. I personally have trouble falling asleep when anyone else in the house is up. We do take away phones, computers, etc. so that does help get these big kids in bed. But it’s like they get some kind of second wind. 11 pm rolls around and they want to tell you all the details of their lives. I hate to miss out on their best selves. So sometimes I power through with toothpicks holding up my eyelids just so I can connect with my kiddos.
My kids go to a pretty academically rigorous school and often have homework that they need to complete in the evenings. This too can keep them up late. My oldest is driving and has a job at a local restaurant. So on work nights, he gets home pretty late as well. I cannot sleep unless he’s home.
Lastly, when my kids were younger, my husband and I used the evenings to catch up. We’d put those munchkins to bed and chat about the big and small things or watch a show together. A huge change in our house happened when kids started to stay up later. My husband and I have had to find different ways to connect with each other. We’ve had to be incredibly purposeful about date night and even connecting during the day when kids are at school or on Saturday mornings when they are sleeping in.
3. You will spend a lot of time in the car.
I don’t know why I didn’t see this one coming. But if you have an older child that gets serious about sports or any activity, the practices really amp up in middle and high school. Expect practices possibly every day. And we probably all remember how important our friends were to us during our adolescent years. Their social engagements become a high priority for your kids during this stage, which often means driving kids to meet friends or to friends’ houses.
Let your teen choose the music and then use that drive time to talk to them. Get some good podcasts for the drives home. And think of something to do if you have to wait for them in the car. Maybe join a book club and read a good book. Oftentimes, I will drop a child at a practice and go grocery shopping at a nearby store. Then come back and pick him up. I also bring my laptop, connect to my hot spot, and get so much work done in parking lots across Albuquerque.
4. Separation begins around 16.
My younger two kids often joke around asking if their older brother still lives at our house. Then they’ll find his dirty socks in the bathroom and say, “Yep! He still lives here!” Between work, sports, extracurriculars, church youth group, and school, my 17-year-old is one busy guy. Once he started driving himself to places, we started to see him less and less.
I will be honest. This one has probably shocked me the most. I thought I got 18 years with these kids at home. But those last two years are so full that the separation does start to begin then. And of course, that’s healthy and good. We don’t want these kids living in our basements playing video games when they are 30. We’re not raising children, after all. We’re raising future adults. But can I just tell you that I really miss my oldest? I really really miss him. And he lives in my house.
5. They will be amazing humans that you want to keep around forever.
I know everyone is scared about their babes getting older and turning into moody, sullen teenagers. We have all heard the horror stories. (Or maybe we were the horror stories.) I’m not gonna lie to you. The hard days will happen even with the best of kids. Hormones are a thing, people. And of course, the scary things that teenagers can encounter are very real as well. But those things are not inevitable! Adolescence does not have to be a nightmare!
On most days (not all days), I love hanging out with my teens. They are interesting and so smart. And thank the Lord, they are funny. (Because if you don’t laugh through life, you will miss out on so much.) Their friends are pretty great too. And I just like being around them. My oldest will be a senior next year, and then he’ll be off to college. The saddest thing about that is not that he’s growing up. It’s that he’s an awesome human, and I want him around. Please be prepared for major shedding of tears when this guy leaves home because I just really like him.
So there you have it. Those are the five things I wish I would have known five years ago before beginning to parent teens.
If you are in the hard trenches of infant or toddler care, I know this is the last thing you want to hear. But the reason why people say it all the time is because it’s so true. Those babies don’t keep! (Don’t worry though. I won’t say this to you in the grocery store.) I’d give a million dollars for the ability to go back in time and hold my son as a baby or even as a squirmy toddler for 15 minutes. Oh my goodness, what I wouldn’t give.
***Note, if your teen is experiencing a crisis, here are a few community resources that may help.
Originally published March 2022.
The opinions expressed in this post are those of the author. They do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of ABQ Mom, its executive team, other contributors to the site, its sponsors or partners, or any organizations the aforementioned might be affiliated with.