Survival of the Fittest: Parenting Through Puberty

I live in the middle of smelly socks, messy rooms, and so much pettiness that I’m contemplating creating a YouTube channel for the shenanigans that go on at my house daily. There are Gatorade bottles all over my boys’ room and Lily’s room still looks like an episode of “Hoarders”. It most likely will until she moves out, but I haven’t quite accepted this yet.

Teens on waterslide

The Yucky List

This is one of many things Matthew and I did not think out when we had kids- we seem to be getting through this unscathed, for the most part. There have been a few rough moments with Cameron, the most easy-going of the three. He gets mad, yells, might even cry a bit, but then he’s done and that’s it. He will be 14 in a few weeks- I’m still stuck on him turning 4.

The other two? Julian and Lily both have issues with emotional regulation thanks to their diagnoses (Lily’s is still unknown, we are waiting for results as this is being written) so that plus puberty, in which hormones are everywhere, this can get messy.

All three kids, however, eat everything we bring into the house and right now, the boys have some form of man colds and think they are dying so, yes, I’d say puberty is kicking right in. If you read my other post To Puberty and Beyond you may be able to get a sense of how things have progressed. (Spoiler: Cameron still takes naps.)

Upset teens

The Middle School Battlefield

Middle school can be rough. I’ve been lucky in this area, the boys haven’t had many issues, but Lily will be there next year and I worry my luck may run out. Girls can be cruel- picking on other girls about their weight, looks, interests, issues with boys, and so on.

Sometimes things are great with your daughter and her friends then POOF! She’s entirely left out of the group- no more sleepovers, hangouts, everything is gone. This can happen to boys, but it’s more common with girls because they tend to form closer relationships.

How can you help your child?

  • Validate their feelings. They need to know that what they feel is real, that you understand, and that it’s okay to be upset about what’s going on.
  • Listen. It may be hard to not instantly fix the problem for your child, but it may be better to let them talk, cry, or both.
  • Empower your child. Give him/her ideas on how to deal with the situation, like staying away from the person/people who is/are bothering them, eliminating them on social media, staying calm, ignoring, etc.
  • Look for signs of worsening issues. Kids can cover things up well and when depression, anxiety and other emotional issues are hidden, it can lead to more serious things, like substance abuse, self-harm, and even suicide. This has become a major issue in our country.

Speaking Of Hormones…

It’s a well-known fact that girls go through a lot during these years, hormonally, but what about boys? I think they might get ignored a bit. I don’t have brothers, so I didn’t get a day-to-day look at how boys operated when I was younger. I’ve got two older sisters. They have hormonal things going on, too. It just shows a bit differently.

Boys get upset, just like girls do. They cry. They yell, and might even slam a door. I’m not sure how my kids’ bedroom doors are still on their hinges. They get a bit spacey.

Me: “Cameron, restart the towels in the dryer, please and thanks.”

*fifteen minutes later, after he has made a sandwich and is sitting at the table*

Me: “Dude. The towels.”

Cameron: “Oh, crap. Sorry, Mom.” *runs to the basement*

This leads me to:

  • Make requests clear. If you need a teen to do something, you might want to revert back a few years and be clear in your directions. Remember when your kid was seven and still needed reminders on what they needed to do to clean their room? That. That’s what they need. Slightly exhausting, but otherwise those towels aren’t getting done.
  • Laugh. This should be a tip from day one until your kid moves out, but it’s definitely needed at this point in parenting. Your kid will do a lot of funny things- most of it on purpose. My house is full of laughs. There’s a lot of fart jokes, a few prank calls from their grandmother’s cell phones, and other weird things.
  • Encourage them. These are some hard years. School is long and sometimes “boring”, you’re trying to figure out who you are, make friends and just want to fit in. Plus your parents still want to know everything about your life? Ew. Your face and body are changing- maybe not in ways you like. YUCK to all of this. The best thing we can do is encourage our kids. Let them know things do get better. They do get easier, those pimples go away, they will get taller. Help them find something they enjoy. This can boost their self-esteem a bit.
  • Be straight-forward. Thanks to my battles with drinking, this has been an important theme with my kids. There are some details they really don’t need to know, but I’m fairly certain they understand the perils of drinking and using other substances. Matthew and I are straight-forward about most other topics because there really isn’t a point in sugar-coating things for the kids at their ages.

Elephant fight

Caution: Bad Attitudes Ahead

Lily is the Queen of Eyerolls at ten years old. She still has about two months before her 11th birthday. She rolls her eyes at almost anything she doesn’t like- food, being told no, having to clean her room, leaving her cousin Cheyenne’s house (they have been besties since birth)- the list goes on for a while.

Sometimes Matthew and I are the best people on the planet, sometimes we are just..ugh.

It’s hard to not take this personally, and I have to remind myself that Lily doesn’t really hate us. Julian really doesn’t want to live with either of his grandmothers (preferably Matthew’s mom because she has better WiFi and she lets them do basically whatever they want) and Cameron really isn’t going to stay in bed forever because he’s mad.

What do you do when your kid throws attitude at you?

  • Think of how you are reacting to the situation. Check your feelings- are you frustrated, angry or even super tired? These can affect how you deal with the situation. Take a break if you need to and come back to the discussion later.
  • Are you part of the problem or the solution? Are you helping your child through the issue or are you making it worse?
  • Is there a deeper issue that I am not seeing? When a teen is upset about something, it can come out in many ways. We may not be able to see the deeper issue unless we poke around a little but it is well worth the work. He or she might be showing one emotion but holding in an entirely different one.
  • Remind them of what behavior is and isn’t acceptable. Your child may need a reminder of this depending on their behavior and/or language towards you. It is acceptable to be angry, upset, etc, but not acceptable to be flat out disrespectful.

I hope I can get through these years and not need to eat humongous amounts of cheese cubes. Do you have tips to share for raising teens? I would love to hear them! Please leave them in the comments, social media or email (use my contact form).

Pictures courtesy of Unsplash

Information courtesy of Inspiring Life Dreams

Phase 2 Parenting

Thriving on Ordinary

Twin Mummy and Daddy

Why it’s Okay to be the Not So Fun Parent

Where’s the Fun?

Parenting is not fun 100% all the time. Any parent that says this is lying. I love my kids dearly, but there are days in which this parenting thing entirely sucks. Either two or all three kids are fighting (their longtime favorite is the front seat of my car), someone is sick or injured, or if I’m really lucky, both. I even nicknamed the fighting between Julian and Lily “The Petty Olympics” because they constantly go for who can bring up the pettiest thing and get on my nerves the most.

Other days, my house is a magical place in which dinner is done on time and nobody fights. This is great.

Most of the time, I’m home with the three ring circus, as the kids are jokingly called. Even when I worked, much of the after-school childcare has been my arena. I’m permanently on call while the kids are at school if anything goes down (and it has- I’ve picked up each kid at least once). This leads me to be the enforcer. The not-so-fun parent.

Someone’s gotta do it, right?

This is not to say Matthew is not a good dad, because he is. He simply works a schedule that brings him home around 7 PM and it’s been this way for many years. Many dinners have been burnt in the process of the kids not tearing the house apart, having a meltdown, or fighting. Fighting is a common theme at my house.

Mom is a Meanie

If I had a dollar for everytime that Lily told me I am “the meanest mommy ever” I would never have to work again.

She’s 10. She has no idea what’s coming for her in the future.

It used to hurt my feelings that my kids thought I was mean and they didn’t like me…but no longer. I had a chat with my mom, the queen of mean moms. She reminded me that it’s not really my job for these kids to like me but for me to raise them to be decent people.

Good point, Mom.

Now quit buying my kids recorders.

One of our biggest challenges as parents is to do what my mom said- raise our kids to be decent people. They need to learn manners, to fight fairly, talk appropriately, and many other lessons. This may mean not being the fun parent all the time.

Sigh.

I’ve had to let the kids learn to squash their sibling fights on their own (unless things get super bad) because it got draining on all of us. Being the not so fun parent means having to enforce the rules, all the discipline stuff (big bummer), making sure your kids don’t hurt others and teaching them how the world works, especially when they mess up.

I do worry that I’m a bit too hard on the kids. When we’re out in public, I do tend to crack down a lot on their behavior before it even looks bad. One of the last times Julian had to get a haircut, he was so angry he walked out as soon as he was done. He got my evil mom glare as he walked out. I took a deep breath, apologized to the hairdresser and gave her a really nice tip. He was mad that he had to get two inches off the top, not just one.

Matthew tends to be a bit more laid back in general so someone’s got to be be a bit heavier with things. If I wasn’t, I’m pretty sure this house would be a crap show in an hour. This also fits my semi Type A personality. It’s okay to be the enforcer. Kids need structure, rules and guidance. My kids gets that from both Matthew and I. They know that I have basically zero tolerance for certain things but being kids, they will still attempt to push buttons. It’s what kids do.

The biggest payoff, not that I was looking for one, is hearing how well-mannered my kids are when they are with other people. My friend Madonna has five kids. She kept my boys overnight recently and when she brought them back, she told me “Your boys are so good! You should be proud of them. They were so nice and have good manners.”

I thanked her. I guess the not fun mom thing does pay off. She told me her kids are loud and wild no matter where they go, but she and her hubby are working on this. I figured that while my sons are less than mannered sometimes with me, I have taught them something while they have been rolling their eyes and sighing at me.

The lesson here is: your kid might be annoyed at you while you’re teaching them manners and other things but it does pay off.

If you’re the “not so fun” parent, don’t be so hard on yourself. It’s okay to be a bit harder on your kids, especially in the age of super disrespectful kids. I’ve seen videos of kids that shocked me- my mom wouldn’t have tolerated any of that for a second. Kids aren’t robots, they do have thoughts and feelings- but it is good to instill things like respect and good behavior in your kids.

Parenting is a tough job- try to make the mental load a little lighter. Try to have a bit of fun in the midst of the seriousness. I certainly do.

Pics courtesy of Pinterest

Twin Mummy and Daddy

Not Just the 3 of Us

Kids and Chores: How to Make it Work

At some point, almost every parent has to think about chores. Some of those thoughts include:

  • What is my child able to do?
  • What is my child willing to do? (some kids are more helpful than others)
  • Should I pay my child to do chores?
  • What should my child be able to do?

the-creative-exchange-682637-unsplash.jpg

The Benefits of Chores

Most kids like to help around the house. It helps them feel like part of the family, boosts their confidence, and gives them a sense of accomplishment.

Lily is known for not liking to do anything around our house, but she loved walking Tiger. She became our main dog walker. She was devastated to lose that job and now has the “pooper scooper” job of cleaning the cat litter box. Walking Tiger gave her a huge sense of accomplishment.

Julian loves to feed the cats. Kids as small as three or four can do small things, like helping pick up toys, and that can be made to be fun (think “The Cleanup Song”). They love to feel like they’re helping and it teaches responsibility of cleaning their own messes.

Another benefit, my personal favorite, is knowing that your kids will move out as adults knowing they can care for themselves. My kids can do laundry (Lily is working on this), use a microwave, many kitchen chores and use a vacuum cleaner. The boys can cook small things for themselves.

I am doing this for two reasons- Matthew didn’t do his own laundry until college and this was baffling to me, and because I have two chronic health issues. If I’m in bed with either severe joint pain due to RA or a severe migraine, the last thing I’m thinking about is going into the basement to finish the laundry. I can ask one of the boys to do this.

I don’t particularly like this, but I choose to see this as a life lesson they’ll thank me for later. To find out more about my fun times as a mom with chronic health issues, you can read RA and Me and Chronic Conditions and Momming

Kids learn bigger chores best by a step-by-step manner. Praise them as they go, and don’t expect perfection the first or even the tenth time.

It takes a while and many tries to get certain chores done correctly. School age kids and teens need chores that grow with them- dishes, laundry, pet care, etc. It teaches them a bit more responsibility.

The Chores Battle

Some kids can’t stand doing chores. There are a few reasons that kids don’t like doing chores:

  • lack of knowing how much work it takes to run a home
  • impulsivity. Working on something that isn’t instantly gratifying isn’t on their agenda.
  • Self-absorbed. The kids that fall into this category don’t naturally consider the needs of others and are concerned about their own needs, which don’t usually include helping others keep a clean home.

These traits develop as a child does, and can contribute to a struggle about chores. Some parents let the struggle go because they don’t want to damage the relationship they have with their children, feel guilty about asking their child to do more than they already do (meaning school, sports, a job, etc.) and/or think their child is too young, not realizing their child’s capabilities.

It may be helpful if you remind your child that everyone in your home is responsible for helping the home stay clean and orderly.

**If there are special considerations that you need to take for your child, take them. There’s no point in giving your child a chore that they cannot for some reason physically complete.**

Ask your child for input. Do they like the chores they do? Is there a way to swap them? There may be some that are non-negotiable, but maybe there are some that can be changed.

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The Money Question

To pay or not pay?

My kids don’t get an allowance. They don’t have a lot of chores- each kid is responsible for cleaning up after themselves, their rooms and the boys do their own laundry. Cameron takes out the trash and takes care of the turtle. Julian and Lily cover the cat care.

Their rooms are a job in themselves- the boys share a room and it gets pretty gross in there. If they want extra money, they can do extra chores or help their grandparents out with something they need.

The boys like this idea, so they’ve been helping their grandfather with yard things lately. Julian and Lily prefer to save their money and Cameron prefers to save it if there’s something he wants, otherwise it’s snack time. He needs to get all the Goldfish he can eat.

Whether you pay your child or not for chores, it is very important to discuss money management- saving, credit, opening a bank account, etc. They will need to know these things for the future. When I take the kids shopping, I remind them of things about tax, sales, and so on. They need to consider those things when buying certain things.

Every parent has a different thought on this topic, and this is cool. I’d like to see your thoughts in the comments. I don’t think there is a right or wrong answer.

Pics courtesy of Pixabay and Unsplash

Information from Center for Parenting Education

Very Well Family

The Truth About Shutdowns and Meltdowns

There are many parts of parenting that we would rather not have happen- stomach bugs, dentist appointments, braces.. the list can go on for a while.

If you’re a parent of a child (or children) with ASD and/or ADHD, a couple of things on that list probably includes shutdowns and/or meltdowns. Neither are fun and we would do just about anything to wipe them off the map. I know I would. Julian’s had both and there’s nothing fun about them.

Let’s take a look..

A shutdown is when the following things occur with your child:

  • may not move, blink or speak
  • may appear as avoidant, escaping or ignoring to others that may not understand what is going on
  • may find a dark, quiet space to get away
  • curl into a ball or fetal position

Why do these occur?

  • Extreme stress
  • Sensory overload (noise, visual are usually the biggest trigger)
  • Frustration

A meltdown is when the following things occur with your child:

  • potentially dangerous and/or aggressive behavior (kicking, biting, screaming, yelling, throwing, etc. Julian almost broke my nose during one when he was smaller) Self- injury is also possible.
  • Bolting
  • Destroying property

These can be stopped, or at least lessened, if you learn your child’s triggers. For example, Julian hates Bath and Body Works because of the many different scents. I avoid taking him in there if I can. If I absolutely have to take him, I am in and out within minutes. We went to the outlet in Daytona Beach, and we were out as soon as he said, “Mom, we need to go, right now.” That’s his code phrase for “I’m done and we need to go.” I already knew what I wanted. This comes from years of knowing my son, plus he had a massive meltdown when he was younger in the middle of our local store.

It may take a few incidents and some tears but learning your child’s triggers is the best thing you can do for everyone. My personal motto for this is “Know your kid”. Your child’s triggers may change as they grow, but some may stay the same.

The reasons for meltdowns are pretty similar to shutdowns. It depends on the kid and situation. Julian is more likely to have a shutdown than a meltdown these days, but I wish he didn’t have either one. He still has bursts of anger, but he’s 12 and there’s a thing called testosterone. Public meltdowns are the worst, and any parent that’s had to deal with that knows that awful feeling. Everyone in the area is staring at you and your child, you just want to go, and all you really want is your child to calm down.

From a parenting perspective, watching your child go through either is heartbreaking. I spent many days crying because I couldn’t stand to watch Julian throwing things, screaming and scaring his siblings. I was relieved when he finally stopped having meltdowns. It hurts my heart when he has shutdowns because I can’t reach him. I have to wait for him to speak- he’s a quiet kid and expressing feelings isn’t easy. I try to put myself inside his brain and remember he lives in a different world than the rest of us.

What Can You Do?

If your child is having a meltdown:

  • Assess the situation. Is everyone safe? Is there anything you need to move to make the area safer? If so, move toys and other objects out of the way.
  • Move other people out of the room that don’t need to be there. This is the most important thing. If your child self-injures, make sure they can’t hurt themselves. If your child is becoming truly dangerous to themselves or others, please take them to the closest emergency room or call 911.
  • Don’t try to reason with a child that is verbal if they are screaming or yelling at you- they are well past that point. If you want to try to talk to them, you may want to wait until they are calm.
  • Remain calm. This is very important. Things can get a lot worse if you become agitated. Your child needs you to remain calm.
  • Limit communication. Your child has enough going on in their mind.
  • Give your child time to recover. Meltdowns are exhausting. They can talk later.

If your child has shut down:

  • Give them the space and quiet they need, as long as they are safe. They may or may not respond to anyone or anything until they are ready, and this may take some time.
  • Don’t rush them, this may make the situation worse.
  • Give them any sensory supports they may need.
  • If they want to talk afterwards, let them talk.

These can be difficult moments, no matter when or where they occur. It’s our job as parents to understand and try our best to guide and love our kids through whatever they bring us.

Pics courtesy of Unsplash

Information courtesy of

My Asperger’s Child

Bristol Autism Support

Psychology Today

The Autism Analyst

Twin Mummy and Daddy