By WMM Contributor: Silvia Cortes
Adolescence. A time in our life that feels as if it is going to last forever and ever. Then, all of sudden we are 10, 20, 30 years since our teenage years and wonder how we survived until it's time to parent a teenager. I have the bigger bonus of being a step mother to a teenage daughter that comes with added challenges. Now as a parent, we wonder how are we all going to come out of this alive and the truth is I really don't know but I have put together a Working Mom Survival Guide for Adolescence of things that worked when I was a teenager and things I have tried as a (step) parent and things I hope to remember when my little kids grow up and we get to try it all over again.
- Talk about everything. As much as I try to stay away from bad news, I do keep up with the headlines to ask my teenager what she thinks. We talk about it all, teen pregnancy, drugs, alcohol, suicide, school, work, movies, books, everything. There are many sensitive subjects but it is good to remember that they are going to talk about it and be curious and generate thoughts and feelings. It is best we provide facts and our own personal thoughts instead of them only getting information from the news or their friends.
- Talk less, listen more. Ask open ended questions. Allow silence to give your teenager time to talk and share. As working moms, our time is very limited so we can build talk time to our schedule such as in the car while going places, during dinner time, first thing in the morning, after dinner. This investment of time can be a challenge for working moms but the reward of getting to know your teenager a little more is the best ROI (Return on Investment).
- Career talk is different than when I was growing up. My parents and older cousins encouraged me to go to college because that was what successful people did. Teenagers who did not like school were doomed and were going to work more for less money. Today, that is no longer true. Learn a trade, go to college, start a business, anything is possible. We also talk about educational majors and what kind of work they can do upon graduation. It is great that my step daughter wants to study chemistry or English but, real talk, where is she going to work with those majors and how far does she want to go with her education?
- Money talk is not important to everyone. It is true that money does not buy happiness, however, it does allow us to have the home we choose, the car that gets us where we want to go, having it allows us go on vacation and have experiences that would not be possible if the funds were limited. It is good to talk about money and most importantly how to earn it. It is ok if it is not the most important thing to think about but it is good to learn to talk about it.
- Know who their friends are and teach them the saying, tell me who your friends are and I will tell you who you are. Encourage them to be selective with their friends and trust their intuition. Talk about questionable behavior and push them to never fear losing a friend that gives them not so good feelings or makes them feel uncomfortable.
- Don't give up, don't stop trying to get into their room, their phone, their social media, and their business. This is the hardest tip because it feels terrible when our teenagers push us away and avoid our parenting but it is our job. Don't get tired of reminding them that we are not trying to be condescending or patronizing but we are trying to prepare them for adulthood because we are not able to take care of them forever. We want to see them grow up, succeed and reach their dreams.
- Trust issues. As much as we want to be there for every single thing, we must trust we have done everything possible and our teens are going to make the right choices when they need to. We must also communicate that trust is earned and if lost, very complicated to gain back. We can't be with them every single waking moment so we will try to guide them and give them information to be trustworthy and then it is up to them to keep it.
- Breathe. We can't control every single thing but we can control our breath to help us get through it and relax a little.
They will test our limits, we will test theirs. We don't always know when we are doing a good job as parents but let's keep the grey hairs to a minimum by following these tips. I know it's hard mama but the rewards are worth it!