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  • Writer's pictureRachel Ruiz

Stop Comparing Your Parenting: It's Okay to Struggle During the Teen Years

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Feeling like you're failing at parenting your teen? You're not alone, and it's a sign of your deep commitment, not a shortfall. 

Wonder why teen parenting seems so easy to some and impossible for most?

For some parents, this period is a time of flourishing, where their skills and parenting style seem perfectly in sync with the needs of their developing teen. 

For others, it can feel like a relentless uphill battle, filled with misunderstandings and challenges. The key to understanding this disparity lies not in judgment or comparison, but in recognizing that each parent brings their own unique set of skills and perspectives to the table, and that struggling is not only natural but an integral part of the parenting journey.

It’s helpful to acknowledge that being naturally gifted at parenting a specific age group is entirely typical and expected. Just as in the professional world, where individuals excel in particular fields or stages of education—be it early childhood education, adolescent psychology, or geriatric care—so too can parents find their niche in a specific developmental stage of their child's life. This specialization is celebrated and valued in professional contexts and should be equally normalized and respected in parenting. The realization that you may be more attuned to the needs and nuances of a toddler than a teenager, or vice versa, is both freeing and humbling. It allows parents to understand that not being a "perfect" parent at every stage is not only okay but part of the process.

Parents who seem to soar through the teenage years often do so with an air of effortlessness, not because parenting is easy, but because their natural communication style and values align closely with the needs of their adolescent children. These parents typically prioritize adaptability, focusing on maintaining a strong bond with their teen rather than on rigid expectations. They tend to view immaturity and typical teenage behavior as temporary phases that will pass in due time. This approach allows for a more relaxed and understanding parenting style, which can reduce stress for both the parent and the teen.

Even when a teen requires more structure or may need to build essential life skills, parents who hold expectations loosely and are okay with stops and starts tend to fare better in the stormy period of adolescence. This may look like being okay at times that homework is not completed, chores need re-doing, or a delay to starting independent activities like driving and a job. What might grind the nerves of one parent (rightly so), is completely acceptable and no sweat off the back of another.

Parents who find the teenage years more challenging are still exceptional caregivers; they may simply require more "energy reserves" to navigate this particular stage. The need for increased alone time, opportunities to recharge outside the home, and a conscious effort to let go of minor annoyances are all strategies that can help. These parents may find it beneficial to regularly revisit and realign with their core parenting values, making adjustments as necessary to reframe this period as one of trial and error. Struggling during this stage does not reflect a lack of parenting skills but rather highlights the need for additional community support and self-care.

Living at the edge of your learning curve as a parent of a teenager is not an indication of failure; it is a sign of your commitment to your family and your willingness to grow. Acknowledging that this stage may be challenging for you is the first step toward finding more joy and fulfillment in your family. Remember, the teenage years are as much a period of transition for you as they are for your child. Embracing this time with openness and compassion, both for yourself and your teen, can transform these years from a period of struggle to one of profound growth and connection.

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