New Year’s Resolutions for Parents of Teens and Tweens


New Year's Resolutions for Parents of Teens and Tweens

With 2019 peeking around the corner ready to knock big sibling 2018 out of the way and assume the spotlight, it’s time to start setting some goals and, if you do that sort of thing, setting some resolutions for the year ahead. After letting my anxiety over grades and my kids’ futures get the better of me as the semester wrapped, I talked to some friends and picked up my copy of The Blessings of a B Minus by developmental psychologist Wendy Mogel. It reminded me of the things I’m doing right and shone a light on the things I can do better. Parenting teens and tweens can feel like the most challenging phase of parenthood, harder even than the sleepless nights with a newborn. We can all use a little guidance and if you need some ideas for navigating this phase with greater joy and ease, here are a few new year’s resolutions for the parents of teens and tweens. Think of these as bridge builders and ways to maintain connection, even as your teens do the hard work of transitioning into adulthood and separating from you.

1. More Curiosity, Fewer Complaints

Every time you tell your teen that the ‘Migos aren’t real musicians or that she shouldn’t listen to drivel like Ariana Grande or that new country is just pop re-packaged, you don’t just insult her music. You insult her, her taste, and her intelligence. You do the same thing when, without any discussion, you tell your child he can’t color his hair because it would look ridiculous or when you criticize your daughter’s creative pattern mixing and try to force your fashion sense onto her instead of letting her discover her own unique style. Every time you do this, you stifle their development and the sense of independence they need to build at this stage of life. You may think your criticism and ban on all things teen can enhance their intellectual curiosity or give them more high brow tastes. But really…you only make life seem a little less fun and you make yourself seem old and out of touch.

So, instead of focusing on the negative, open your mind a little. The next time your teen tries disappearing underneath their headphones, ask if you can listen too. Blast it on your car stereo and instead of looking like your ears might bleed, try to hear something you like or can relate to. Ask your child about the artist if you don’t know them and find out what it is they love about the music. And when you find your tween who won’t crack open a book hunkered down reading comics, resist the urge to criticize and ask to read a copy of it yourself. Then ask your child to tell you more about the characters. Which ones do they love and why?

By showing curiosity about your child’s interests and allowing them to explore avenues that don’t align strictly with your own interests, you give your kids freedom to become their own interesting beings. You validate their identity and interests and let them know they don’t have to be anyone other than who they are. And, you open the door to further communication instead of sealing it off with your disdain.

2. Love the Person, Not Their Accomplishments

This seems so basic. Yet, I feel the need to say it…louder for those of you in the back…your child is not the sum of his accomplishments. Your child is not a reflection of your awesome or terrible parenting beyond their ability to treat others with kindness and compassion. If you haven’t taught them that, well…all the straight As, touchdowns, and scholarships to Harvard mean nothing.

Love your child for her tender heart. Love him for the way he makes his siblings laugh when they’re feeling down. Love his grit. Love her furrowed brow when she’s thinking. Love the way she remembers all her friends’ birthdays and makes them little treasures.

Give your teens hugs, just because, even if they try to pull away sometimes. Say “I love you,” every single day even if you feel mad at them or they at you.

Even as they work to pull away from you, teens need to feel the safe tether of your love that keeps them grounded and reminds them they have a soft place to land in times of trouble. Mogel cites a study in her book wherein teens were asked to name their greatest fear. Not nuclear annihilation, terrorism, getting pregnant, or failing a class topped the list. The number one fear most teens in the survey listed? Disappointing their parents.

Don’t ever let your kids think your love for them depends on whether or not they got an A+; made the Debate Team; earned a starting spot; or on any other mark of achievement. Love knows no conditions. Always let your kids feel your love.

3. Give a Little Grace

Can you remember what it felt like to be a teenager? The swooping swings of emotion that grabbed hold of you day in and day out, exacerbated not only by ever-changing hormonal fluctuations, but by the pressure to do well in school and live up to everyone’s expectations? Even if, as you recall it, you “never would have spoken to your parents that way,” open your mind to the possibility of letting a few things slide. As the saying goes, choose your battles.

I had a revelation during my son’s 14th or 15th year as he experienced another growth spurt and suddenly his emotions varied from moment to moment. Parenting teens looks a lot like parenting toddlers. And when I encountered a grumpy, grouchy, bear of a teenager, I went down the list just like when he was a toddler: is he hungry or does he need a nap? Seriously.

And if you can keep in mind the vast changes your teen’s body and brain undergo in a relatively short period, you might find the empathy to show them a little grace when they come at you over some perceived slight; leave the dinner table or get out of the car without the courtesy of “thank you” or “goodbye;’ or grumble when asked to do a chore.

Being a teenager has never been easy. And today, with all the pressure kids face to do all the right things to get into college while still navigating the intricacies of friendships made all the harder thanks to social media, kids face more pressure than most of us did when as teens. Try to understand that. If your teen wants to sleep in on Saturday, unless they have a job or sports commitment, who does it hurt? If they grouse or complain at doing chores, gently remind them they still have to do it and ignore the complaint. If they’re grouchy, slamming doors, or shouting, unless they’re swearing directly at you or insulting you, let it go. Even if they’re insulting you, ignore it. They don’t mean it and they’re just trying to push your buttons. Remember the adage that “hurt people hurt people,” and dig deep to empathize with what your kiddo feels. Can you remember when your toddler saved all his tantrums for you at home after being an absolute angel for grandma or her preschool teachers? That’s because you were her safe place and she knew she could unleash all her unhappy feelings and frustrations with you and you’d still love her. It’s no different now that she’s a teen. If your kid’s behavior veers into territory that becomes harmful to herself or disrespectful and hurtful to others, then you can lovingly intervene. Otherwise, save the fight for another day and when she’s calm, remind her you love her and that you are still her safe place. Even in the midst of the tempest.

What challenges you the most when loving your kiddo through the teen years? Share your goals and plans for growing your relationship. Have you made it out of the trenches? Share what worked best for you to keep communication open and loving? We’d love to hear from you in the comments section!

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Hey, y’all! I’m Dawn – a native Tennessean who could not wait to escape the small town for the big city. After attending a women’s college in Atlanta, I took root there and stayed. One marriage, two homes, two kids, and 25 years later, here I am, back in Tennessee. My husband moved here in January of 2016 to start a new job while our two boys, Brendan (born 2003) and Beckett (born 2006), and I stayed behind to finish the school year and sell our house. We arrived in July 2016 and have been working to make a happy new home here since then. We love living on the North Shore and I am enjoying finding unexpected beauty and little joys throughout our new city. I am also mama to fur babies, Josie the Rhodesian Ridgeback/Lab mix, and Miller, a sweet orange and white tabby cat. I'm into art, movies, music, TV, pop culture, nerdy stuff like Doctor Who and Game of Thrones and I know more than my share about the DC Universe, Pokemon, Minecraft, Battlefield, and all things LEGO thanks to having two boys.


    • Thank you, Tara! You have vastly more experience dealing with teens than me so that’s a huge compliment! Now to just practice what I preach!

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