We all know about the dreadful teenage years. Of raging hormones and irrational behavior.
But do we really know what to expect? Are we prepared for it?
Just as we start to enjoy the freedom of independent kids who can function without us, the next phase descends without warning.
As I started to navigate my way around unchartered waters, I reached out to those with teenage kids/young adults for advice.
What a vast difference from when the kids were little. We could relate to one another with similar rants of bedtime battles and sibling quarrels. Bonds were formed with fellow mums as we shared tips and supported one another through those long and tiring days. We could rope our other halves in, the helper plus grandparents to ease our load. We were not alone.
But this. This was entirely different.
Nobody talks about the worrying problems facing our teens. No two situations are alike, and there are no easy solutions.
As I spoke to other mums, the conversations were done in hushed tones. The seriousness of the issues poured out gripped me with fear. They were too real. Not something you read about in the newspapers. Some were lucky that their kids did not give them sleepless nights. But many others shared personal tales of a time shrouded in darkness.
There were stories of eating disorders, self-mutilation (sometimes in groups), being the victim of cyber bullying, peer pressure, depression, obsession with their looks and self-perceived inadequacies, inhaling harmful substances to get a high to escape from reality, relationship issues, negative influence from classmates, staying away from home for days, attempted suicide and other sombre tales.
Having to face just one of these issues can wreck havoc in a teen’s (and their family’s) life.
In some cases, it can be to the most heartbreaking extent where as a parent, you have to turn your own child over to the police after discovering something like drug abuse.
The tough decisions parents have to make.
It really is the most difficult job in the world. Nurturing children to walk the right path and being strong enough to face the pressures from so many aspects.
Nothing prepares you for the things you will come face to face with. With a heavy heart, you witness the consequences of the choices they make.
As a mother, their pain is your pain magnified a thousand times.
At this age, they are hard to decipher and you are unsure what to say or what not to say.
I’ve discovered a sad truth from opening up to other mums. Beneath the surface of good grades, affluent lifestyles and superficial answers lie secrets many mothers carry in their hearts.
They are yearning for a confidential ear to listen to their worries. And when the storms have finally passed, they are more than willing to share their experiences and offer advice to others.
Just because they don’t have the visible signs of toddlers hanging off their arms, it doesn’t mean they are not burdened.
Yet more importantly, what about the teenagers?
Beneath their sullen look and curt replies could be a torrent of emotions they cannot handle, the demands of school and life which they cannot live up to.
Be the supportive village they are so in need of. If you do not know what to say, it is better not to say anything. They are very sensitive creatures at this point in their lives.
To mums of teens, hang in there. It is going to be a bumpy ride. It takes a strong heart.
Be ever vigilant. Teens are so good at covering up what they don’t want you to know. Don’t take things lightly. No matter how busy you are, keep an eye on them.
Don’t be afraid to open up and share with other mums of teens. They may not face the same issues but will understand what you are going through and can provide the much needed support in troubling times.
A wise friend with grown-up children shared this:
Never give up on them, never cease praying for them. Keep on loving them especially when it is so hard to do.
Some moments, I wish they were little again. When I could scoop them in my arms and life was so much simpler.