Parenthood, Let's just go ahead and talk about it... Shall we? As far as I'm concerned, parenthood is one of the hardest things we experience in life. I find myself asking, why on earth did no one tell me this would be so hard!? Before you start asking yourself what on earth am I rambling about, let me tell you a story.
Figuring out how to parent a teenager has been tough and the last few years haven't been exactly pretty. It's an ongoing process though so I won't begin to let you believe I've figured it out. I tell my oldest, Jason, that he's my guinea pig all the time (I'm sure he loves that).
He's the first to go through everything and with every step I'm learning too. He doesn't always like it but tough, I'm the parent and whatever I say goes. Kidding. But the fact remains, we're all just trying to figure it out and hope we do well enough that our kids still want to see us after they move out, right?
I know it's been said a million times already but if it ain't broke don't fix it! Parenting doesn't come with an instruction manual. Well it might but I never read the instructions so I have no idea. We just have to keep trying to do the best we can and try not to get caught up in too much parental guilt. Easier said than done, I know.
When my teen and I are not on the same page, I feel like I'm a total failure. When my teenager says hurtful things, I feel like a failure and of course worry about his future and what he thinks of me as a parent. When my teen goes from being a crabby butt to a silly goof in 3.2 seconds, I wonder what in the heck just happened.
Despite being a trained therapist and knowing a thing or two about human behavior, I struggle. A lot. That's where my badass colleague and expert teen therapist comes in to save the day. Meet Jax Anderson, the Psyko Therapist.
I message Jax often and word vomit like crazy explaining how I just can't seem to connect with my son or ever say the right things and always seem to upset him. Thankfully she worked her magic and talked me off the edge. Better yet, she helped me see a few things a little bit clearer.
A few things I learned.
My emotional response is not my child's fault or responsibility and I have not done a good job making that clear to him.
After talking with Jax, I figured out that my teen (and pre-teen) are reacting mostly to my own reactions and emotions and they don't know how to handle that. I can only imagine how that makes them feel insecure. I'm sure, without meaning to, I've communicated more with my tears and anger than I'd care to admit and that he's the one that made me feel this way.
I'm going to try my best to make it clear I'm responsible for my stuff. My tears, anger, or whatever emotions I'm experiencing are not due to them making me feel that way. It's just how we're feeling and not their fault or something they can, or should, control.
Jax reaffirmed that my kids are totally normal and I'm sure yours are too. Take a minute to let that sink in.
More than once I've said to my husband that I'm worried I'm raising a serial killer. I know I watch too many crime dramas, don't judge. The reality is our children are just growing and learning about themselves and how they interact with the world. They poke and prod until we react or they simply don't know how to express what they're feeling.
Jax suggested I try saying something like, "Are you upset about something or need to vent? If so, go ahead. I can take it." or "It seems to me that you might be upset and therefore trying to make me upset. Could that be what's happening right now?"
It's ok to own up to our kiddos that we make mistakes. Every. Darn. Day. When you're in it though it can be hard to see what's happening. There's no way to always be able to see what's going on, always keep your cool, or say the right things. No matter how smart you or put together you are. Hello, therapist talking here, we're all human. That's why it's so important to have friends, a therapist, family, or anyone you trust to help bring some perspective.
Look, I'm a regular old human being just like you. I'm still trying to figure it out too and struggle along the way. Don't let the therapist title fool you. Show yourself a little compassion, patiences, and forgiveness.
Most importantly, if you need help ask for it! Whether you reach out to myself, another therapist, friends, or family. I don't care who it is but just start the conversation and get it off your chest.
You got this parental units!