“The Post-Apocalyptic Guide to Surviving the Teenage Years” originally appeared on Sean M. Swaby’s blog and The Good Men Project, and was reprinted with permission.
I love my kids, but sometimes I want to scream. And sometimes I do. In my post-freakout season of guilt, I often wonder if I am the only parent who feels crazy like this. I know that I’m not, I just think that most parents are not willing to go on record.
When I looked around at the resources for parents, most acknowledge that parents feel stress, but there is an assumption that family is a source of great positive energy. I wonder if these resources are written by childless people, grandparents, or parents with cute elementary kids.
Parenting is one of the best things I have ever done, but it is also one of the hardest things. Parenting teenagers will push you to discover, surpass, and wave goodbye to your limits.
So for those of you who also find yourselves in the trenches I like to call the teenage years, here’s a post-apocalyptic guide to making it out in one piece.
It will pass, just like a bowel movement.
At my age, both things are really important. You will wonder why you ever did this, and this does not make you a bad parent.
You will think you are crazy.
Questioning your sanity is part of the process. You are sane, I get you.
You will suffer.
The Buddha says that life is suffering. He must have had a teenager.
Don’t suffer alone.
Misery loves company, but so do cheesecake and wine. Being alone in your suffering just makes it even more difficult.
Go back to #4. and have some cheesecake.
Progress is written in pencil, not permanent marker.
There is a reason that parents make pencil marks on the door frame to mark progress. Pencils are made with erasers on the ends for those eraser days. You will have many, many of them. Trust the eraser.
Laugh, because it is easier and cheaper than a mid-life crisis.
Laughing lets go of stress and let’s you take on a different perspective. Really, it just gives you something else to think about.
Forget what the experts tell you.
There is no such thing as a developmental stage. Teenagers live the stages each and every day. It’s more like developmental moments interspersed with moments of sanity.
Know that this will blow over.
Living with a teenager is like living with someone with moment-by-moment changes in their mood, their sense of rationality, and their overall communication skills. Storms pass. Hide in the bathroom, hold onto something, and lie in the bathtub because soon enough it will be over. For today.
Yes, you are right, but don’t expect to ever be told that.
Maybe when they’re 25, I don’t know. My wife and I are smart, but apparently my name is spelled: “I-D-I-O-T.” At least sometimes …
Remind yourself that your teen is still a child somewhere inside.
It’s easy to fall into a strong dislike of what they do. Remember who they are. I find it helps if I assume he has multiple personalities. Love the person, but know they will do weird and offensive things. And sometimes, I am the one with the multiple personalities.
Get your kids to hang around other adults.
Not everything that teenagers do is insane or inappropriate. In between the ado-less-sense, they may even make sense. This is why it is important to get your kids to hang around with other people. They are more rational around other people, and you get to see other sides to their personalities. Trust me, this will save you thousands in therapy.
You will not always be happy — and that’s OK.
The reality is that parenting is not really about you or your happiness. You will have seasons where you are unhappy, where you question your decision to ever have kids, and where you wonder if your kids will make it out alive. Having kids is a good thing and yes, you will all make it out alive. I think this is why I love zombie movies, because most of the really important people make it out alive.
Stress, sleeplessness, and financial strain await you.
But it will come to an end.
You will have increased levels of anxiety, depression, and greater impacts to your mental health.
Parenting is not bad for your health, but it may take a toll on your mental health. I think that is nature’s way of helping parents dissociate, or numb out, so the experience seems not so bad.
I consider this post as Part 1 in an ongoing series, because parenting teens will teach you more about life and about yourself than you ever thought possible. I still think it’s worth it. I will stop for now, because I have to go for a run. The reason I run is that my teenager can’t keep up with me.
More from Sean M. Swaby:
- 6 ways that having teenagers will make your more religious
- 13 things I know about family and mental illness
- 10 reasons ADHD is an advantage, not a disorder