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Episode 74

Do you dread parenting during the teenage years?

May 15, 2023

[Kyle]: In today's podcast we're going to talk about the challenges of raising a teenager, and whether you have a teenager currently or you have a teenager on the way, we're going to give you some real clear steps and tips on how to have the relationship that you want to have with your teenager.

[Kyle]: Hello, and welcome to episode 74 of The Art of Raising Humans. I’m Kyle.

[Sara]: And I’m Sara.

[Kyle]: And first, we want to say happy Mother's Day. You know, this should be dropping the day after Mother's Day.

[Sara]: Yes, yes. Happy Mother’s Day.

[Kyle]: I hope your Mother's Day has gone fantastic. We'll find out since we're recording this a few weeks before Mother's Day. But I hope all the moms listening to this podcast had moments of real joy and really, really felt celebrated and loved by their kids and families, and for any of you where that wasn't happening, we want to tell you we appreciate you and the job you do as a mother. It’s a difficult job.

[Sara]: Yeah. We are there with you, we support you; we want to encourage you, we value you, the work that you're doing.

[Kyle]: Well, and I like the word you said, encourage, because today we want to talk about some of the challenges mothers might have faced, dads too on Mother's Day, because we want to talk about the challenges of raising a teenager.

[Sara]: Yes

[Kyle]: And we have a course that we've done called “How to Communicate and Understand Your Teenager” and we offer that on the website, and I think we're actually going to be doing-- Or we have by the time this podcast come out, we will be doing a special discount. So, hopefully some moms partook of that. But if you didn't get a chance to do that, we'd love for you to grab that course, because it's going to equip you with so many skills on how to do this raising teenager thing a little better. But we want to spend this podcast today just giving you some maybe new ways of thinking and understanding what it's like, the uniqueness of this stage, you know?

[Sara]: Very unique.

[Kyle]: Yeah. What would you say is unique about it? Because I know every stage has its own uniqueness, but I think the teenage years in particular can cause a lot more fear than all the other ones. So, what's unique for you, Sara, about raising a teenager?

[Sara]: Well, a little background to that. I feel like every time I remember having our first infant and I sort of started to feel a few weeks in that I was getting it down, the whole feeding and all of that, and then some new developmental stage hits and all that's out the window and you're doing-- Now, it's this new stuff and it keeps going in life where you “okay, now we're dealing with keeping you away from touching electrical outlets or keeping you safe on the playground, and then it's navigating friendships in school and learning” and things are always changing and changing and changing. Then the teenage years hits and it feels like that might be the biggest change.

[Kyle]: Yeah

[Sara]: And that one. Even though I don't know how many teens I've worked with, I don't know how many parents I've talked to about teenagers. Loads and loads, all the classes and trainings and everything, and it's still my own personal experience of the teen years, where they're finding themselves and they're kind of pulling away and the relationship does a complete flip in this way I've never experienced before.

[Kyle]: Yeah, yeah.

[Sara]: And after 13 years of kind of them pursuing you, it really shifts. Some of the dynamics in the relationship really shift, and even though I think I prepared and I've thought about it and all this stuff, it still is quite an experience to walk through.

[Kyle]: Yeah, I think you said that well and there's a lot more serious consequences too during this stage, you know? It seems like a lot of the stuff you just explained, it does-- I think elicit more fear, because the negative outcomes are just so much more apparent, you know? It isn't just falling down and scraping your knee, it's like demolishing a car, [Unintelligible]. You know, it is flunking out of school and not getting into college and things like that.

[Sara]: The consequences are so much greater if. I hit my friend because they took my car when I'm little, versus the kind of fights and the kind of things that happen are on a bigger scale, a scarier scale, like you said. Because you-- And especially in our adult brains, you know, we see it, we've seen it happen to other people and so, our brains can go “look at the choices they're making, look at what's happening right now, what could happen. You know, this can lead to this really scary place”.

[Kyle]: Well, I know something we try to do that's unique about our podcast is we don't just want to talk about just the experience of raising the teenager, you know, in regards to just having that teenager, but also the experience within ourselves and so, I think what you're saying is we also are kind of replaying how we were raised as a teenager, right?

[Sara]: Yeah, exactly.

[Kyle]: So, it is very much those fears, I think, are even more urgent and more in our face because with our own parents, they also felt that same fear, you know? That they also were probably more stressed and more-- You know, the conflicts were just bigger and scarier for them as well. So, sometimes we're reliving that same story with our own kids.

[Sara]: We are our own experiences-- Our own experiences from our childhood always are a paradigm that we're working through when we're raising our children, they always impact how we interact with our children and the teenage years are not an exception to that. Maybe in some ways they really shine in those moments, because maybe you had a really conflictual relationship with your parent in the teenage years and so, that's always in your-- It's ever present in your mind as you're interacting with your child and thinking “oh no, they're pulling away like I did” or “oh no, look, we're fighting just like what happened with me and my mom”.

[Kyle]: Yeah, yeah.

[Sara]: And so, that's there. Even if you feel like you-- You know, we are always trying to work that stuff out. I don't know if we ever arrive at some totally whole place, but we're always hoping to heal and grow, but it's still there. It's like kind of in the back of your mind. You know, “I don't want these things, these things that happen to me or these choices I made, I don't want my child. I want to save them from that. I love them and I want to see an easier road”.

[Kyle]: Yeah, maybe [Unintelligible] afraid they're going to have sex too early or they're going to experiment with substances or alcohol or things like that.

[Sara]: School problems.

[Kyle]: Yeah, yeah, friendship issues.

[Sara]: Friends, yeah. Bullying. Anything like that, you start to worry that that'll be the path they're on and you want so desperately to save them from the aches and the pains and the troubles that you went through.

[Kyle]: Yeah, and I want to ask you, listeners, just even, what are your biggest fears about the teenage years? Even for those of you who have teenagers and those of you who don't have teenagers, but you know they're growing into that stage. What are your biggest fears going into that? I know the ones that I hear real common, Sara, I'd love to hear yours, is a lot of times I hear in session when I'm helping teenagers, is the parents are so afraid of losing their relationship, you know? They're afraid that this closeness they once had is going to go away, the kid's going to go to college or move away and they'll never be close again, and almost every time that's followed up with “just like me and my dad” or “just like me and my mom”. You know, they're really afraid that they will never, ever really know their kid the way they did before.

[Sara]: Yeah, yeah, that was the first one that came to my mind too. I think there's a lot of other real common ones, but I feel like that ultimately that's our heart walking around out there, you know? And we want that closeness, and everything's changed so much. The way they're talking to us and the way that we're relating to them has shifted and it takes-- It's a little hard to catch up, to keep up with the changes at that age.

[Kyle]: Yeah. So, there's that distance. I think another fear is that they'll just make these mistakes that just can't be-- You can never come back from, you know?

[Sara]: That will go with them for the rest of them.

[Kyle]: Yeah. That they’ll-- Even something as big as addiction, they might get really addicted to something like, pornography or drugs or alcohol, but then they'll also, make mistakes relationship wise or academic wise or those kinds of things. Or another one is maybe because of the distance in the relationship, I failed them in giving them the necessary skills that I wish I would have had going into adulthood and so, they feel this pressure to like, you know, just force feed the kid.

[Sara]: “I’ve got four years left to--"

[Kyle]: [Unintelligible], I got to like, force feed you all of these things, you know? I need to make you eat healthy, make you understand important exercises and good sleep habits and, you know, all these kinds of things.

[Sara]: So, now, is every listener feeling some anxiety or stress?

[Kyle]: Yes

[Sara]: Now that we've laid all that out there, it’s like…

[Kyle]: Well, it’s--

[Sara]: It’s tense.

[Kyle]: [Unintelligible] the question I wrote down I'd love listeners to think about is, how do you imagine it will be? Like, even think about even as your kids are going into this year or even as they are, if they're really young, how do you imagine the teen years? Because I know when we were-- Before we even had kids, the common thing I'm sure people talk about is just “oh, the teen years”. It's almost like the terrible twos, you know?

[Sara]: Yeah. Oh, yeah, yeah, a lot.

[Kyle]: That you hear the terrible twos-- [Unintelligible] “when they're teenagers, just get through it, just endure it” and the kids hear that a lot. I know Dr. Dan Siegel has a book called Brainstorm, where he talks about kids hear this a lot of just “get through those years”. Like 13 to 18, you just got to endure it with them and then hopefully come out on the other side better, and then the kid almost buys into that too, that these years have to be really, really bad and a lot of fighting and arguing, and in order to be independent, I have to push my parents away.

[Sara]: Well, I think it's really important to-- I think sometimes we give 5 seconds of thought to what we think about the teen years, but I actually think it's important to either sit and write it down, or sit with the other parent or a good friend or something and really kind of talk it out. Because a lot of times we'll sort of mindlessly-- Or in this blind way of going through these years or these things, and maybe because it's hard to actually think about, you know, to face your fears or face your belief systems and things that happened, but we actually need to turn in that direction, because those things really impact how we parent.

[Kyle]: Yeah

[Sara]: So, we want to sit and write it out. We want to talk it out because we want to bring light to it, and the more we talk about it and write about it, those little hidden areas that-- You know, when you're writing or talking and you have that moment of like “oh, I didn't even know I thought that”.

[Kyle]: Exactly, yeah.

[Sara]: That is a real fear of mine. All of a sudden, the tears start to flow or something. We want to get that out there, because it actually gives it less power. When it stays hidden, we're actually acting out of that space, but we're not even aware of it.

[Kyle]: And I think it's confusing to the kid, because the kid thinks all this emotion is about them and really, it's about the parent going through this story, you know?

[Sara]: Yeah, we have our own triggers and traumas, and trauma, even just a stressful relationship with my parents during the teen years, whatever it might be, could be really great and a really scary, horrible thing. It could be a minor thing, but those things all play in. So, we want to bring those things to light, so that we can-- Not that we can make it all perfect. Let's go get healing, talk to somebody. If it's something we really want to work through it and heal ourselves and work through ourselves, you know, we talk about that all the time. A lot of this parenting piece is what's going on inside of us.

[Kyle]: Yeah, yeah.

[Sara]: It's less about our kid and really what's going on inside of us. We want to work through it, but at the very least, we want to be aware of it, so when we have these little moments, we can go “oh, I think that has something to do with what's going on right now in this moment” and it gives it less power.

[Kyle]: It also, gives it context. I think it helps the kid have context of “why you seem so scared of this?” or “why you're so energized and triggered by this thing I did?”, is when the parent goes “you know, this is the story I'm telling myself about this” or “this was my experience”, and I can do it in a way not to say “so, this is your experience”, but I can just open handedly look at it with the kids, so the kid better understands where I'm coming from and why it's so hard for me to imagine a different outcome, you know? Because the only outcome that parent knows is this negative outcome that, “when I made those choices, this is what happened”.

[Sara]: Yeah

[Kyle]: And the kid is feeling this like “I'm not you. My choices don't have-- I don't live in the same world you lived in. I live in a different time, a different place” and all of that's true, and it doesn't negate the wisdom the parent might have because of what they've been through, but if fear is at the core of it, it's almost like fear will predict it has to happen the same way it happened to me, and that's going to make you more controlling and more scared and more angry and more demanding.

[Sara]: There's just a different way wisdom is shared too. I think that sometimes that's why our kids can almost hear it from someone else. You can say the same thing, that coach will come in and say something.

[Kyle]: Less baggage, yeah.

[Sara]: Right. You know, and you think “I have said that to you ten times and now the coach said it--"

[Kyle]: Yes. You've all felt that, haven't you? Yes, uh huh.

[Sara]: Yeah, and sometimes we just need a different person saying the same thing to us. But sometimes it's because the coach can just say it and there's not all this energy behind it, because the coach isn't worried and doesn't have all this the same stuff going on.

[Kyle]: Yeah

[Sara]: And so, when you say it, even if you can't identify it, even if your child doesn't know what happened in your life, they can feel that because it still is playing a part in the words and in your body language and in your facial expressions. Even though we try to hide it sometimes from our kids, it leaks out and they feel it, and there's this pushback that wants-- You just want to push back from something like that.

[Kyle]: Yeah

[Sara]: “This is more about you and not about me. Even though you're trying to help me here, I can feel this ‘ugh’ going on with it”.

[Kyle]: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Seems like a lot of times the kids will say this. “Seems like the way you're helping me is by stopping me from doing stupid things and like, the goal is for you to stop me from making these mistakes, instead of thinking that maybe I could be making informed choices, maybe I have thought about this thing”, you know? And I think the kid also, at least the teenagers I've talked to, Sara, they know they need that guidance. Like, they know they actually need people to help them. They're not so arrogant. I mean, I know they can present that way as “I know everything”. It's a real common thing, but they aren't so, arrogant to believe that they really do know everything. I mean, they know there's a lot they don't know, but it's almost they feel like the only way to be into dependent is to push you away, even the help you're offering, because the help seems tainted. The help somehow seems to be tied in to the story that you just said, the story within the parent and the kid saying “that isn't my story. Don't make your story my story”, you know?

[Sara]: Yeah

[Kyle]: And I think that's the real trick, and that to me, goes into the idea of the kid. Yes, we know teenagers need to be independent and they need to find their own path, but that doesn't mean they do that solo. That they really need to do it with you. So, there is this whole push and this pull type thing that happens with the parent, where they're leaning in and then pulling away, you know? And I think that's one of the biggest struggles as a parent. Just “how do I know when I'm supposed to lean in with them and when I just need to back off?”

[Sara]: Yeah. Oh, definitely, definitely. Because even if a real intention, right? I want to help you feel like you're capable. So, I want to back off and let you navigate this, even if it's not perfect. But then “ugh, is this one of those times I need to lean in? Or do I need to give you space and let you struggle with this?”. That's really, really hard to figure out.

[Kyle]: I think another aspect, and we'll get to that, I want to hold that thought, is taking things they say and do personally. You know, I think that's a big struggle too. Because maybe as a little kid you can hear-- You know, I mean, obviously you don't want your little six- or seven-year-old saying “I hate you”, but they might and it might hurt your feelings, but you kind of go --I mean, the six- or seven-year-old really doesn't even know what that means. But man, if a 15- or 16-year-old says it…

[Sara]: Ouch

[Kyle]: It seems like they know what it means and they just said that, you know? And so, it's a lot harder, I think, in those teenage years, to say what they say to you and not take it personal, not let it really impact the relationship to where then you want to pull away to just be safe.

[Sara]: Yeah, and I think it's hard to remember, much like you said, six or seven, but I think of that two, three and four year-old age, where there's a lot of emotional turmoil going on and they really don't have a good handle on the emotion. They're riding these big waves that are going on in their brain and really, we can't expect them, and the skill is not there. So, we kind of expect them there's this quiet-- This quieter phase that can happen. I'll say quieter, it's not quiet. But we have to remember that teens are also going through so, much in their brain. Their brain is working really, really hard, and it's developing and it's changing and it's pruning and a lot's going on and so, they're again riding those rough seas and to try to be there with them, it's really hard not to take it personal. It's really hard to go “okay, this is really hard for them and I need to help them”. I still need to help regulate and love them and not take it personal like I would when they're littler. So much easier when they're little than when they're big.

[Kyle]: Yeah, and well, I think you go back to a great point, okay? So, one of the keys if you're saying “well, how do I know when to lean in or pull back?”. First, it starts with me. I've got to be in a space where I'm composed and I'm regulated, a place where I'm able to be in my prefrontal cortex, where I'm able to be more open handed in that moment and not to say you're going to do it perfect. It's not the goal. You and I sometimes lean in when we need to pull away. Sometimes we pull away when we need to lean in.

[Sara]: Yeah, [Unintelligible] struggle. Yeah.

[Kyle]: So, we go through the same kind of thing and I don't think the goal is to do it perfect. The goal is to attune to them.

[Sara]: Yes. Love that.

[Kyle]: To get more and more attuned to them, to know what each of your kids is really needing in that moment, to where you can almost feel it. Like in that moment, typically, that would be a moment when you would pull back, but you're like “I think they need me to push in” and that may look like they need you to be firm in that moment. Other times, they may need you to pull back and just have open hands and just receive what they're saying. Right?

[Sara]: Yeah

[Kyle]: And to almost just listen and have no response back other than just an empathetic, caring response, right? But I think as you-- Through these teenage years, as you get used to those waves when they're up and down and you attune to them better, because you're attuned to yourself, you're attuned to what's going on in you, you know? Like, is there a moment where I'm now reacting out of fear, so therefore I'm trying to control them or trying to shut them down or-- That really hurt my feelings, so now I'm trying to stop them. If I'm not attuned to me, then how can I be attuned to them?

[Sara]: Yeah

[Kyle]: You know, I need to know my own story, the story that's guiding me in this moment, before I then can be receptive to the story they are currently living.

[Sara]: Yeah, it's sort of like on the airplane, you got to put on your oxygen mask before you put on their oxygen mask.

[Kyle]: Yeah, that’s good. Totally.

[Sara]: I need to make sure I'm taking care of me and I've got oxygen flowing. I'm doing well, I'm regulated, I'm in a space of feeling safe and loved, and then I'm better able to attune to them. If you're like “how can I attune?”. Well, take care of you. That'll open the doors for attunement, and then I can go and read them better, and the other thing I think is also-- We can play this guessing game, but sometimes just check in.

[Kyle]: Oh, I love it. Yeah.

[Sara]: And just saying “I'm trying here. I can't really tell if this is a place to move in or back off and you need your space. I want you to know I want to be there with you and I'm here just to listen if you need listening, if you just need to complain” or “I can help you brainstorm”, you know? And just let them know that you're trying to find your way. Even if you don't always get it right, I think they appreciate the honesty because they can feel it.

[Kyle]: Well, that's a great example of the story, because you might say something like, “when I was a teenager and I was going through what you're going through, I always wanted my parents to do X, Y, and Z, and that's why I did that. Did you find that helpful? Or is that what you wanted?” and you know, the kid might say “no, I don't want that”. “Oh, so, you're not me. That's a good thing to know, because--”.

[Sara]: They appreciate that.

[Kyle]: Yes, just because I liked that and then, of course, it helps give the kid context, because the kid might be like “why do you keep doing that? I don't like it. I never--”. Yes, but it's because “oh, it helped you. Oh, that makes sense. But it doesn't help me, because each of us have different personalities”. But it may be the case that it helped you and we'll help them, right? But lots of times it is-- There is a little more nuance to it. That maybe the way your parents helped you in that moment, it may look the same, but it might have a different feel to it, you know?

[Sara]: Well, we have different personalities. What you need-- Even as adults, what you need in a given moment of stress or whatever is different than what I need. So, they're the same way. So, sometimes we just need to go to them and say “what do you need?”.

[Kyle]: Yeah

[Sara]: “This is what I'm thinking. Would that help?”

[Kyle]: Yeah, and so, I wrote down here that I think one of the most important things we're figuring out okay, that it's helping me is, in these teenage years is to keep reminding myself that whatever's happening with us and our teenager, it's not about me. It's not about me.

[Sara]: Yeah

[Kyle]: As soon as I make it about me, then my story begins to trump their story. My reality overtakes their reality and what a kid is needing-- The reason why that's so important, remember, this isn't about you, these years--It's so important because what they're actually needing is they are needing help in understanding these confusing waves they're going through.

[Sara]: Yes

[Kyle]: They're needing your help in understanding themselves and trying to figure out what they want to do with their life. I mean, what a big question, right? If our listeners can tap into that confusion you have as a teenager, it is kind of confusing, you know? And you're in this stage of like, still wanting the nurturing, but also wanting to go brave this new world. You’re thinking maybe you won't succeed if you go do that and knowing-- So, it is like this constant battle within yourself and so, really when you make it not about you and instead make it about them, like their behavior, their feelings are about them, then you're able to help them better understand themselves and what they want to do with their life.

[Sara]: And that's the skill they need. They need to be able to self-reflect and actually listen to their bodies, listen to what's going on inside of them. There are a lot of messages that kind of tell them not to. “Just do what we say, don't listen to you”. But actually, if you got a teenager, we've got a few years, right? We do, and we want to be there to help them actually tune into that, because they're about to head out into a world where they need-- That's an important skill.

[Kyle]: Yeah, and you want them to be able to talk that out with you, not just doing it in their room by themselves with their door closed.

[Sara]: It's that transition to “I'm definitely doing this alongside of you and I hope to be alongside of you”.

[Kyle]: Yes, yeah. Well, and going back to what you said is, I wrote down here-- It's about being heard. I mean, I know we hear that a lot of teenagers want to be heard. I think we all agree upon that. It's about being heard, but I think it's even more about learning how to hear them and for them to learn how to hear themselves.

[Sara]: I love that.

[Kyle]: Thank you, thank you. I wrote that earlier this week.

[Sara]: Because it is very-- Because we want-- Right? We do, we want to hear them. That's great. But how much more is it that they can hear what's going on inside of them and make sense of it? Because it's a lot of confusing. Just like you said earlier, where they're really scared, but they're also really excited. All of that's going on at once. I kind of imagine it, that choppy sea and this little boats out on this choppy sea and I think that's now-- Just teenagers are facing so much, social media, all the social stuff going on, all the extracurricular, the sports or the music or whatever it might be.

[Kyle]: Yeah

[Sara]: Stem class.

[Kyle]: Even unstable economic situations and all that kind of stuff.

[Sara]: Yes, they can hear what's going on in the world. We-- You know, maybe weren't exposed much, but regardless of any of that, they're exposed to a lot of it. They know a lot of it and there's so much that they're trying to deal with as well as my future, making plans and college or no college, there's all kinds of mixed messages out there and so, it's this choppy sea of life that they're on and they're this little boat.

[Kyle]: Yeah, yeah.

[Sara]: So, they need you to be there.

[Kyle]: So, I want to end Sara with just these couple of points of encouragement. Is I want every parent, whether you have a teenager or don't, I want you to know something about teenagers, is they actually want you to parent them. They want you to be their parent. They don't want to do this on their own. Even when they say they do, they actually don't want to and they need to have hope that the relationship with you can be a positive one. They need to have hope, because when it starts to get really conflictual, they will pull away and they will think “crap, this is how it has to be. It's just going to be bad” and a lot of times parents will buy into that too, that this is just how the teenagers have to be.

[Sara]: “It’s better for you and me if we just are apart”.

[Kyle]: Yeah. So, I want you to take a moment and imagine what the relationship could be like. How could the relationship look if you had a healthy relationship where you're both listening and hearing each other and co creating a new relationship during these teenage years? That you really do have more say and influence than you think you do. I know it seems like you don't, it seems like they're not listening, but they are listening and they are taking it all in and your words mean more to them than you ever will know. So, I hope you take advantage of the course that we have. If you want more information on this and really get even more equipped for these teenage years, because it is a challenge and we want to do all we can to offer you help during that, you know? And if this is really helpful, please share this podcast. Like it. Send it to friends. We really hope we're creating a lot of value for you as a listener to help you create the home and family that you dream to have. All right, I hope you all had a happy Mother's Day; wanted to say that one more time and just have a fantastic week this week and go love on your teenager. Go towards it with hope and courage that this relationship can be different.

[Sara]: We appreciate you, and if you don't have a teen, now is a great time to be laying that foundation for those teen years to come, because what you lay down now will come back in the teen years. So, it's a great opportunity to imagine, like you said, imagine what you want it to be and work towards that goal. We appreciate you guys listening as always.

[Kyle]: Goodbye

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