When I was pregnant – and then a young mother of a son and twin daughters – I envied the “got-it-together” moms. The moms with children over age ten who seemed to effortlessly balance the needs of their older children. The early years were easy with my preschool education experience, but one day I realized I had a teen and two tweens. My expertise had expired, and I hadn’t researched this new era of parenting. It was past time for me to “get it together.”
If you have found yourself with questions on parenting the big kids, I recommend starting with these five steps on your way to being a Got-It-Together Mom (or Dad).
Look for moments to work on your active listening. This means when your teen is confiding in you about “so-and-so being so mean today,” you’ll want to stop thinking about laundry, work, and annoying drivers and tune into what your child is saying. “That sounds frustrating. What happened?” Asking questions acknowledges their feelings and shows your child you are hearing what they are saying.
“Ma’am, stay calm and step away from the phone!” Seriously. The endless texting and emails have got to stop. Put it down (tell your kids to put theirs down, too) and connect with your children. Set a schedule for them and yourself on some non-negotiable face-to-face time – not Facebook.
Battle the Super Kid Myth
“Our son plays football and plays the trumpet and wrestles and is in Boy Scouts and juggles fire and…” It’s great for kids to be well rounded, but self-care for your teen is important, too. Take the time to watch a sunset. Take a walk together. Just be sure to keep the Super Kid in check.
Reject Expectations of Super Mom
Stop trying to do it all; you can’t. Some days are chicken piccata and fresh salad, and others are grilled cheese and peas. And that’s ok. Realize eating a simple meal, leaving the dishes for tomorrow, or having naptime for mom while responsible big kids rule the roost will save sanity for all.
Teach Life Lessons
Can your teen make a sandwich? Do they know how to balance a budget, or the importance of avoiding credit card debt? Can they sew a button on a shirt? Strive to ensure they are not so busy being multi-talented that they are totally unprepared to care for themselves outside of your home.
These steps remind us to acknowledge feelings and listen supportively, tune out the phone, and direct them toward being a super person, not a super human.