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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Small Steps to Self-Sufficiency

At the Top of My List

On the list of things to do as a parent is to teach your child to take care of themselves. I am a fan of this on many levels- I don’t want my kids to go to college or move out barely able to take care of themselves.

Matthew didn’t do his own laundry until then, and I was like, “Wait, what?” I had been doing my own laundry since I was about 12 or 13. I’m not a great cook, as we all know, but my mom attempted many times throughout my childhood. For the record, my mom is an amazing cook.

Tired mom

I also realize that I won’t be around forever- this became super real to me after my stroke in 2013. Yikes. Since that stroke, I have struggled with migraines and now rheumatoid arthritis. The migraines have gotten better in the last few months, but they are a permanent risk. I will be on medications (pretty much) forever to prevent them.

I was diagnosed with RA last year, but I’m not sure how long I had symptoms. I’m not the best at tracking these things, plus I’ve been on medications in the past that cause joint pain, fatigue, and a few other issues. (Thanks, Depakote.)

I’ve written about having RA in RA and Me Unlike my grandfather and many others, I have been lucky enough to get a diagnosis early so that my joints have a chance at not getting entirely destroyed. My grandfather died in 2016 at 83, and his hands were a major problem. He couldn’t write for years before he died because his fingers were curled up due to severe joint malformations.

These medical issues are less than fun and some days, it’s a struggle to get out of bed, much less wash clothes, cook and other things. Kids are pretty demanding. My post Chronic Conditions and Mommimg discusses this in more detail. I didn’t like the idea at first, but I’ve had to ask my kids to help out a lot more. Both boys can do laundry, cook (somewhat), wash dishes, and other things. Lily has been a bit more of a challenge, which leads me to the next topic.

Dishes pic

Kids Need a Bit of Encouragement

Some kids don’t need a lot of words- just tell them what to do and let them be. Lily is not one of these kids. She gets overwhelmed very easily and we have to break chores down for her- I have to make a list of what to clean up in her room. It takes less than five minutes to do and even though she moves at a snail’s pace, her room does get cleaned.

I stopped cleaning it months ago. It’s time-consuming, she’s old enough to do it on her own and honestly, I have other things to do with my day. Every kid is different and that needs to be taken into consideration.

Playing alone with legos

Tips for encouraging your child to do more on their own:

  • Take a couple of steps backward. Sometimes we tend to stand right in our kids’ way when they are trying to do something on their own. Let them try the task, resist the urge to correct or change what your child has done and praise their work. They need to hear that you think they did great, even if there were a couple of hiccups. Perfection is less important than you think it may be.
  • Break down the task. I do this often for Julian and Lily. They have different needs and this is a way to make things a lot easier. There are fewer tears on their end and less frustration on mine. Don’t hesitate to walk them through the task if needed and then back away, slowly letting them gain a skill.
  • Time limits can help build confidence. Get your child started on a task, then let them work on it for a certain amount of time on their own.
  • Give them a clue, not the whole answer. This can be very helpful with homework. A small clue towards the answer may be all they need to get the answer on their own. If they can’t find something, give them a hint on where it might be or the next step in a process.
  • Make a list of things that your child can do for themselves. You and/or your child may not realize what they can do. A list may allow your child to say what he/she feels they can do on their own and what they still need assistance with.

What About the “I Can’t Do It” Kid?

Some kids have anxiety about getting chores or other tasks done because they are afraid they can’t do it right, which they don’t want to show to anyone, sometimes leading to defiant/avoidant behaviors.

The main focus on fixing this issue is to find out what is making your child so anxious- are they worried they will take too long, they don’t know how to complete the task, it’s too overwhelming, etc. There are invisible factors but yet they can be a large roadblock.

  • Try talking to your child. He or she may open up about their worries and you may be able to find a solution. If they don’t, try small questions at first. This may help.
  • Offer to help get the task (ex. cleaning bedroom) started. A small nudge may help a lot, especially at the beginning of trying something alone. A kid’s room can be a big space to clean if they’re scared they can’t do it alone.
  • Remind them that perfection is not the goal. I used to be a perfectionist, but I just don’t see it as a thing anymore. (My former therapist helped a lot with this idea.) They don’t need to make their bed perfectly the first, tenth or even fiftieth time they make it. Learning a new life skill and the effort is a lot more important. For example, Cameron put three laundry pods into one of his first unsupervised loads of laundry. He thought I would be mad, but I told him that his and Julian’s clothes would be super clean and smell wonderful.
  • Remind them that everyone makes mistakes and they are still growing. Kids tend to forget that they are still growing and that they will mess up. It’s okay.
  • Encourage them to take a break if things get too frustrating. This can be useful for almost anything, but kids need to know this is an option. This might be a relief.

Relax pic

Think of helping your child become more self- sufficient as beneficial for everyone: you, the parent, get a few extra minutes in your day and your kids learn a lesson. It’s a plus for the family.

Do you have tips to add? Do you have a kid who refuses to do anything for themselves? I’d love to hear about it. Leave a comment or find me on social media.

Information courtesy of: Developing Minds

Today’s Parent

Parenting

Pictures courtesy of: Unsplash

 

DIY Daddy

Teen pic

Drinking, Drugs and Your Teen: Tips for Discussion

I’ve been very open on this blog and in many other areas of my life about my struggles with drinking. My kids were center stage for some of the dumber things I did during that time, and I regret that so much. They finally stopped the barstool jokes, but it took a couple of years.

I took Julian to his 12 year checkup last week- his pediatrician talked to him about drugs and alcohol, if he had been asked to use anything. (He said no.) On the way home, we talked about this and then we talked about my drinking.

I told him that if he chooses to drink, that’s entirely his decision, but not to drive drunk. We also discussed a few other things, which you will see below.

He hates the idea of Uber/Lyft (“They might do something mean to me, Mom”) so I told him I would always come get him if he needed me. I’d prefer if he waited until he’s 21, but in the age of underage drinking, I know this might not happen. I’m also not sure of the interactions with his meds, but that may be something I need to look into.

Ritalin+Clonidine+alcohol=potential yikes.

tammy-gann-733599-unsplash.jpg

Drugs Are Bad, Mkay

I’ve watched too much “South Park”, but you get the idea. The talk that we need to have with our kids isn’t meant to be a funny one- I can’t figure out a way to make it funny or else I would. Matthew has decided to hand this talk over to me. I’ve worked as an addiction counselor and chemical dependency technician. When I was a mental health associate, I also got a lot of first-hand experience with people who had been using drugs and/or drinking. Let’s leave it at it’s not always pretty. I think I’m prepared?

A Few Tips on Talking to Your Kids about Drugs/Alcohol:

  • Bring up the topic calmly. The conversation I had with Julian was a pretty calm one, it just happened to follow his checkup. Let it happen naturally if you can. Sometimes these conversations don’t happen calmly, as in if your child is caught with a substance- many parents would be very angry.If you have to, let some time pass before speaking to your child. Nothing will get accomplished if both of you are angry. Ask them why they might want to use anything- boredom, wanting to fit in?
  • Discuss the dangers. In Cameron’s case, he can’t drink energy drinks. It may trigger an SVT episode, so he can forget the entire amphetamine category of drugs. His cardiologist had a very long discussion with him in the hospital about drug use, and I think it scared him. If kids know the dangers of what they’re trying out, they might be a little (or a lot, hopefully) less likely to try it again. Alcohol can lead to liver damage, and smoking can damage the lungs, throat and other areas, for example. Remind them how drugs and alcohol can affect their brains. This can affect their decision making and other skills in the future.
  • Remember that your influence matters. If you have had an drug/alcohol problem, it is up to you to decide whether to discuss it with your child- every situation is different. My kids saw some of the effects of my drinking and they remember it, so it’s not like we can skip over it. I don’t plan on discussing why I drank so heavily, because that goes into marriage issues. I plan on discussing the not-so-great things I did and what could have happened had I kept drinking. If you haven’t had this issue, you can discuss stories of people you know that have had issues- kids can relate to this pretty easily. Just be prepared for questions.
  • Provide support. Today’s teens go through a lot. Peer pressure is a bit different than it was 20 years ago. For more on this, you may want to read Why You Need to be Ready for Peer Pressure Our kids need to know we support and love them.

rawpixel-687081-unsplash.jpg

Looking for Signs

It can be troubling to worry about or even see signs that your child may be using drugs/alcohol, but it’s something to watch for.

Behavioral Changes:

  • changes in relationships with friends/family
  • breaking curfew
  • locking doors
  • has increased appetite (marijuana will cause this)
  • clumsy behaviors
  • disappears
  • changes in energy levels
  • stealing

Personality Changes:

  • mood changes
  • withdrawn/depressed
  • hostile/angry
  • lack of motivation
  • secretive
  • silent
  • deceitful

thought-catalog-545969-unsplash.jpg

If you do realize that your child is using drugs/alcohol, there is outpatient treatment for teens, but if it is a heavy problem, your child may need inpatient rehabilitation. Please try to treat your child with love, not confrontation, as hard as it may be. They may be angry with you, but inside they are struggling. You can reach out to a local mental health professional or treatment center.

Talking to teens can be hard, and everyone involved can feel awkward. This talk, however, can save lives. If you haven’t had this talk, it may be time.

FREEBIE: Talking to Kids

If you have found this post helpful, or know someone who can benefit from it, please share! Thanks!

Pics courtesy of Unsplash

Information from: Phase 2 Parenting

Teen Alcohol Abuse

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