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Teenagers remind me of toddlers…

April 19, 2016

I find myself at a strange crossroad in my life. I am a mother of a two-year-old girl and a fourteen-year-old, 8th grade, girl. I find their behavior and personalities strikingly parallel.

Teenagers remind me of toddlers…one second moody, independent, emotional, destructive, and upset with little reason or explanation. Then, like the flip of a switch, they are sweet, funny, loving and actually admit they need and want me. My older daughter is trying to be grown up and independent, yet she will occasionally lay her head on my shoulder, try to sit on my lap,  or ask me to lie in bed with her at night and talk or scratch her back until she falls asleep. I feel she is, at times, jealous of the ease, simplicity and innocence of her little sister.

I do, however, feel the struggles of a teen in our time is hugely more difficult than that of a toddler.  Tweens, teens and young adults are faced with daunting and mature problems that I did not see, hear about, or worry about until I was in college…maybe end of high school. Some of their problems are the same, however, the age they are facing them is considerably younger. Internet issues and cell phones were NOT an issue for me.. I sound like a dinosaur, right? These challenges include:

– Drugs and alcohol
– Cutting
– Sex
– Questioning sexuality and gender
– Bullying
– Eating disorders/body dysmorphia
– Issues of consent in a sexual situation
– Slut-Shaming
– Internet bullying
– Internet predators
– Suicide
– Human trafficking (Sound extreme? Not really, unfortunately)
– Poverty
– Domestic/family problems
– Mental illness/depression
– Addiction

My daughter has spoken to me about, or experienced more than half of these issues. She has a gigantic heart and is quite mature underneath her angst. She talks to me about things she hears at school…middle school. Not high school. Not college. My heart aches for our youth. I have no advice for kids or parents. I am no expert. I am learning as I go. My message is the following:

– Talk to your kids
– Find out what they are exposed to
– Be extremely careful (PLEASE) about who they spend their time with
– Set rules and limitations
– Stalk their phone! Take it away if need be. It is a privilege which comes with great responsibility.
– You are not their FRIEND
– Lift them up, even when they screw up
– Please be an open and available advocate and liaison in our community! Parenting is hard!  We need each other!

I love my kids. I want them to grow up, un-scathed, have great families and live easy lives. I never did anything the easy way. Look around at the beautiful young people in your life and think twice about what they walk into, bravely, each day.

I hate cliches. I, now, live by them.

“You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, smarter than you think, and loved more than you will ever know.”
Winnie the Pooh
– Ellen Schardt, Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Youth Educator