What I wish I knew about raising teenagers in 2023

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Congratulations! You’ve made it through the first year. You made it through the long days of potty training. You made it past the hard first day of school. You’ve even made it out of elementary. Welcome to the years of confusion, conflict, rebellion, frustration, fear, anger, joy, sadness, and happiness. And I’m not talking about your feelings! That’s right I’m talking about the teenage years.

When I became a mom I had my plan for what I imagined teenage years would bring. I would be the open-minded mom that let my kids learn as they go. I can assure you my parenting style has changed dramatically in the last 4 years. With having a teenager, two soon-to-be preteens, one entering school age in August, and soon having two under two I am no longer the happy-go-lucky mom.

Although I still see myself as the cool young mom, my kids I’m sure would tell you otherwise.

Being thrown into this age a little sooner than expected was not in the plan but here we are surviving. Our oldest is 8, but 7 years ago our young family members needed a home. My in-laws have cared for them but in the last 4 years, we’ve all been living under one roof. My relationship with our aging teenager isn’t a crazy unique experience. I know I am not the only person to be raising her cousin. But that doesn’t mean it hasn’t caused problems and obstacles along the way. Finding the balance between being the cousin and also being the parental figure hasn’t been the best combination. If I could go back 4 years and warn myself of what the next years were going to look like, these would be the conversations I’d have.

1. Technologies are awesome but still not Teenage friendly.

I assumed we would enter the teenage years with total ease, after all, I was a teenager. Famous last words. Guys, this is not the 90s or the 2000s anymore. What I thought I knew about growing up is not even close to being in my favor as a parent. Technology has been an obstacle for sure when it comes to raising kids today, but not something I would consider a deal breaker.

What an amazing tool it can be to make friends from different places and see the rest of the country without having to leave! But it also opens the door for people to see into your life. Being open with my teenager about how Instagram can be used for predators (yes we use the scary words in our house because I truly believe hiding truths from kids is harmful) who make fake accounts and add you as a friend and talk with you about your life. We’ve luckily never had pushback from her when it comes to social media.

2. Being a motivational speaker is now my job.

The biggest challenge I was not prepared for was my role in continuing to motivate my teen. When I was going through my teenage years I, of course, knew it all and wanted to prove to my parents that I could be a responsible person. I played sports, I worked, and I maintained a decent grade point average. Even now as an adult, I like to stay busy with my kids, work, exercise, and learn new skills. I think we assume our kids will see us work hard and it will just come naturally to them. And although that seems to be the case with some of our kids, it is not a “one size fits all” situation.

I have a hard time finding anything she wants to do without being prompted to do it. I’ve had to learn not everyone wants a hobby, even if they are good at it.
Without a prompt from myself or my mother-in-law, we struggle to get her to do things on her own. Learning how to communicate with my teen has been a huge wake-up call to me. My job will never be over as a parent.

3. Stranger Danger

The hardest lesson I’ve had to learn is no matter how many times you’ve said “don’t talk to strangers” it’s not enough.
Finding the balance between encouraging your kids to meet new people, and being loving and accepting to all but also teaching them the dangers of the world is so important. As adults, we see the dangers and want to shield any child from them. But I believe in continuing to allow our kids the freedom to “prove to us” they are responsible enough to make the right choices without being told or shown how easy it is for someone to mislead or guide them to do something they don’t want to do.

Every age group needs to be talked to about this but needs to be talked about in age-appropriate manners.

My Breath of Fresh Air Moment

As a parent, there is so much learning I think we have to do when it comes to our kids, especially as they enter their teenage years. I’ve recently started watching “ABC’s The Parent Test”, and I must say I am learning some great tips from every parenting style. Dr. Adolph Brown is such an amazing mind I highly recommend listening to him speak on any topic. He speaks of repetition and communication with our kids even through their teen years. I know I’ve felt so many times that I am repeating myself over and over again when it comes to the things like Eating to nourish our body, bathing and haircare, school work, and keeping our rooms tidy. You know, all the boring grown-up things.

But after hearing Dr. Brown speak of repetition I feel like my day is coming soon where it will click.

I’ve always wanted to be clear with my kids when it comes to why certain rules are in place in our house. Our teenager will have plenty of times she’ll hate me and think I’m ruining her life. I let her know there will be times I will mess up when giving a punishment. But, it’s not because I want her to have a boring life, it’s because I want her to have a safe and educated relationship with life.

What I hope you learn from me

All in all, I know relationships with kids will look different in every family. For me and my family trust has been the biggest relationship builder. Not just my kids trusting me but me trusting my kids. We’ve had some hiccups along our journey, no doubt. But, with every bad, there is double the good. Having a teen can be so fun, especially as a girl mom. It is true that a built-in best friend can happen in some relationships. I like to view it as the older mature friend that is mentoring you through life.

So parents, don’t fear the teenage years, they aren’t always going to view you as the evil mom or dad. There will be times they need a parent’s advice and times that a friend’s point of view advice might benefit them more. But, always being there for your kid, no matter if they are right or wrong, is the most important role any parent can play.

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Brittany Ruehl is a recent working mom of multiple turned stay-at-home mom. After welcoming her youngest daughter in May of 2022 she made the leap of staying home. She and her husband are raising their 3 daughters and 2 cousins in Bowling Green Ohio. They are expecting baby number 4 in July 2023. Running 5 kids around to different schools and sporting events can be overwhelming some days but brings her much joy. She hopes to provide families hope, family activities, support, and so much more! You can follow her daily adventures on Instagram @britruehl

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