Category: Parenting Teens

How to Let Go of your teen – 6 easy tips

How to Let Go of your teen – 6 easy tips

Teen years are tough for youngsters, we’ve heard that enough number of times. However, as a parent, I find they’re just as trying for me too. One of the toughest tasks is to know when, how and how much to let go as our children grow.

Parenting a teen isn’t easy

Most of us are at positions of responsibility in the workplace. That means more stress. Moms are probably approaching menopause, slowing down just a little.

Our teens, on the other hand, are coming into their own, bringing out their most rebellious sides. They are a lot of work, not perhaps in the physical sense but definitely on a mental, emotional level.

If you’re the parent of a teen, I know you’re already nodding your head in agreement.

Letting go doesn’t happen overnight

Much as we would love our children to remain soft sweet cuddly lisping toddlers, growing up is inevitable. Thank goodness for that. Remember the poop and pee, the cleaning and the crying? Yeah, so thank goodness they are growing up. The hard part, though is letting them go.

It doesn’t happen overnight. We need to begin, bit by one tiny bit. The process of letting go should be a ‘process’, not a knee-jerk reaction to teen-rebellion. A landmark birthday – the 13th or the 16th – does, however, serve as a reminder that it’s time to begin.

My twins, H and N, stepped into their teens this year and this is one of the toughest tasks I’ve set myself.

Is it too early?

If you’re thinking 13 is too early to start worrying about letting go, even in the Indian context, you’ve not seen this new generation of teens and tweens. They are very aware of the idea of independence and value their freedom and their choice. That’s really a good thing, though hard to stomach for parents.

Is it easy? Nope it isn’t

As H and N are growing older I have given up control in many areas. I’d be lying if I say I have been okay with it because I am not.

However like all parents, I see the need to do so, to step back a little; one, to preserve my sanity and two, to keep the communication going. The thing is, if children feel we are on a completely different page, communication will certainly break down.

Also, this by no means implies that I have withdrawn completely even on the areas I have listed below. The mom in me won’t let me. There are days when I lose my cool and go after them. However, as a general rule, I try to curb myself, restricting myself to positive motivation only.

 

So here are the top six things I’ve learnt to let go of:

Micromanaging their routine

When the children were younger I was very very particular about timing their day. There was a time for their bath, a time to eat each meal, a time for study, time for play and a time for bed.

I’ve learnt to let that go, specially on weekends and holidays.

That’s not to say I don’t cringe when I see N emerging from the shower at 3 in the afternoon but I let go. As long as they’re having a bath every day I’m fine.

I’ve seen teens go without baths on the odd day and I hope I don’t live to see that day. But again, never say never. Who knows I might have to learn to be okay about that too. (Crossing my fingers and hoping to God it doesn’t happen).

Eating together on weekdays

With a very heavy heart, I have to admit I’ve let go of eating together on weekdays. However, on weekends, I go the whole hog, laying out the table and insisting that everyone sit together.

I like to have my dinner early and the Husband is diabetic and wanted to eat at a particular time too, but the children were either busy or not home from play.

Rather than fretting and fuming and messing everyone’s dinner (including mine), I now go ahead and eat. I am then in a much better frame of mind to handle them when they do show up.

Also during peak academic pressure, they want to carry their plates to the television room and I have learnt to be okay with that too.

Cleaning their room

This is such a pet peeve. All I am trying to stick to (and not always succeeding) is for them to make their beds on weekdays before they leave for school. And also, to not have clothes strewn on the floor. Other than that, I pretty much let their rooms be as they are.

I do pull them up on weekends or once a fortnight. I am hoping, with time, they will see the value of putting things in the right place.

Micromanaging their money

This is more relevant for slightly older children, specially those living away from home, but I wanted to make a beginning. And so I began to let H and N manage their own money.

This year we started them off on a small amount of pocket money. We give them a fixed amount and encourage them to keep account but refrain from commenting on how they spend it.

It’s interesting to see how each of them manages it. Children are really so very different, even twins! For instance one of them likes to buy small sweets and chocolates through the month while the other prefers to spend all of it in one go on a fancy bit of sweet. We let it remain their choice as long as they don’t come to us asking for a loan.

Also read: Raising Financially Savvy Tweens

Spending time together

Sadly enough, this is bound to take a beating too, sooner rather than later. The faster we realise it the better it is because we can then begin to value our time with our teen and ensure we make it count.

This growing away has, for me, been a rather gradual process but for my Husband who is working in another city, it is always a bit of a shock when he comes home and doesn’t have the children milling around him like they used to.

There was a time they would fight over having us in their rooms all the time. Not any longer. I’m often met with closed doors. How that annoys me! I simply go around opening them and (for now) am met with mild protests, ‘It helps me concentrate’, says one of them while, ‘I like to play loud music,’ says the other.

However, I know there will be a time when they won’t be as tolerant and I’m preparing myself for it. It works to lower one’s expectations.

Accompanying them everywhere

In a few months, we’ll complete one year of having moved into this new home. Since it is close to the kids’ school, they started walking to it. I accompanied them for a few days but now they manage on their own. In the beginning, I was apprehensive, since they have to cross a mall along the way but as it turns out they manage pretty well.

Since then, I’ve watched them cross crowded roads and negotiate traffic on their own.

Also, with much trepidation I’ve started letting them use Uber autos, following them on my phone all the way to their class. I make sure they carry a phone between them and have enabled location sharing so I know where they are at all times.

With these safeguards in place and loads and loads of advice on handling all possible situations I let them manage their commute on the days that I cannot go along.

I have to admit that a lot of this freedom has stemmed from the fact that being the lone parent with them, it simply isn’t been possible for me to accompany them everywhere. It helps hugely that there’s two of them. It is kind of comforting to know that they have each other when I’m not around.

Also read: The Road to Independence

So there, those are a few ways in which I’ve adjusted to my growing teens. I’d love to hear from you. How have you taught yourself to let go?

Mornings #SOL

Mornings #SOL

6.15, says the kitchen clock. The sun is just lighting up the skies. I slide some butter on the hot pan, the sizzle sounding loud in the early morning quiet. I put in slices of bread quietening the sizzle, then turn the flame down and head off to wake the children.

I find H sleeping on his stomach, head twisted upwards at an awkward angle, a thin sheet barely covering him, the fan on full blast. I reach out and decrease the fan speed then call out to him. He doesn’t stir. I give him a gentle shake, trying to reach him through the swathes of sleep. He nods finally, as I tell him he has five more minutes.

This five minute warning, I have found, helps ease the children to start the day. I like it too. I hate dragging them out of bed, specially on cold winter mornings or on rainy overcast days. Mondays are the worst, specially exam Mondays, like today.

He’s a night owl, this one, lying awake late, then waking up to lethargic mornings, often begging for an extra minute after the five-minute buffer.

In her room, N lies invisible among the folds of a thick comforter, the fan switched off. She stirs as I call her, gets her head out then silently points to her cheek, eyes still shut. I give her a kiss. She turns her head and points to the other one for another kiss – our own private little ritual. Then she snuggles down for the extra five minutes. Mornings are easier for her specially if she has a ‘good’ day lined up.

I marvel at how different they are.

I smile remembering how passionately we read Linda Goodman back during college, how confidently we allotted character traits to people we barely new. ‘Ooh she’s a Scorpio, beware’. ‘Oh he’s an Arian, bound to be flighty’. Judgement came only too easily.

How ridiculous it seems now! How can people born over thirty days have the same traits when these two, born a few minutes apart, are chalk and cheese? How drastically did the planet alignment shift in those two minutes to get me two such varied ones?

Interesting subject of study for an astrologer, I muse flipping the bread, and tipping the egg on to it on the pan.

I glance at the clock again. Five minutes are up. I walk to each of their rooms in turn, checking on them, calling out again, trying to inject a sternness in my voice this time, a sternness I don’t really feel but there’s no time for mush now.

Another day beckons.

 

Sharing the post with Two Writing Teachers.

Why we need argumentative children

Why we need argumentative children

Sample this conversation here:

H: May I sleep in your room today?
Me: Why?
H: Because I get the best sleep there.
(The real reason is perhaps because his room is messy and he’s too lazy to clear it).
Me: Nope, you’re thirteen and you need to learn to be independent.
H: But mama India got independence after hundreds of years, I am just thirteen!

That was kind of funny, I know. However two words that top my list of most-detested-words are ‘But mama..’. I deal with them day in and day out, a million times a day. They have driven me to distraction, they have led to long arguments and missed buses. My personal Utopia would be a place where those two words didn’t exist.

Imagine for a moment, that did happen, that children stopped arguing with us. Imagine they ALWAYS did EXACTLY as we told them to.

Bliss.

Right?

Life would be peaceful.
There would be no dissonance.
There would be no tantrums, no whining, no arguments.
And so, things would move faster and we’d probably get way more done. We’d be more productive.

Right?

However, also, consider this:

Children would never learn to reason and think and make decisions.
Their mental capacities would lie in a limbo from disuse.
They’d grow up into adults with no minds of their own.
Things would perhaps never change because each generation would be a replica of the previous one.
There’d be no progress.
We’d probably still be hunter gatherers.

Puts things in perspective, doesn’t it? I mean arguing with your children sounds infinitely better than spending your life wearing leaves and living in deep dark caves crawling with all kinds of undesirable life forms, right?

Jokes aside, as a mom I hate the thought of my children not making their own decisions and taking over the course of their lives at some point. It is staggeringly frightening to think that I would always and forever be completely and wholly responsible for everything that’s right or wrong in their lives. That’s not how it should be.

Children argue because they have the capacity to think.
They argue because they do not want to follow rules blindly.
They argue because they want to try new things, new ways.
They argue because they think differently from you.

And that’s a blessing.

Be grateful.

 

Linking up with Mel for Microblog Mondays after a long time.

How honest are you with your children?

How honest are you with your children?

Last week the dentist told us H needed a root canal. He was blissfully unaware of the discomfort about to come his way, thanks to the wonderful paediatric dentist he went to when he was younger. I, on the other hand, was more than aware of what it entailed having undergone a rather painful procedure in my thirties.

I tried to not let my anxiety show but it must have been somewhat apparent because H asked me, ‘Will it hurt?’ Torn between reassuring him and being honest I hmmed and hawed and tried to get away with a noncommittal answer. I should have known better because H has the knack and persistence of a badger when it comes to exacting precise information.

Finally I told him it would hurt but that he would be on painkillers so he’d be okay. Rather than finding it reassuring it freaked him out to the extent that he tried to tell me he was quite fine and didn’t need the treatment after all.

That made me wonder if it would have been better had I not told him it would hurt. Perhaps it really wouldn’t, given that I had chosen this particular dentist on the recommendation of a friend whose son had sailed through a root canal without much trouble. I wondered if I had made H needlessly anxious.

When the kids are young it is easy to fob them off with simplistic truths or with a distraction. As they grow, however, their queries become more layered and they want honest, precise answers.

So what I want to ask you is How honest do you think one should be with one’s children? More specifically, with one’s teen? More so, when it isn’t something as straightforward as a root canal.

When they talk to you about complicated relationships (with friends and teachers and believe me when I say, it can get really complicated), about life choices, about friendships gone wrong… how honestly do you answer them? Would you warn them about the pitfalls they might encounter or would you rather they go ahead with innocent enthusiasm and figure it out for themselves? Do you worry that your constant warnings might turn them into suspicious over-thinkers (That’s rather ironic, given that you’re overthinking this whole thing in the first place).

I know I do.

It’s a tough one.

A lot will obviously be guided by our own experiences and attitude but I sometimes wonder if, in our bid to tell them ‘as it is’, we end up over-sharing details that really aren’t necessary and we mess their world view. That the children are growing up, means we can talk to them more freely yet they don’t need to know everything about the world in all gory detail. Sometimes it is okay to leave them to find out things on their own.

That might of course mean that they will sometimes fall on their faces, they will get hurt but those are the lessons they will remember forever, way better than the ones we tell them about.