The guilt that keeps on giving
Erma Bombeck said guilt is the gift that keeps on giving. She nailed it. In my estimation, no one has a corner on the guilt market like us moms. We can dish it out and we stockpile it for ourselves. By the time our children reach the teen years, we have poured a lot of mothering into their lives. Some of that has been amazing. Other contributions — when we raised our voice, were impatient, or demanded more from them than was reasonable — were not the best.
The teen years are hard on even the best of families. I know adolescents who are choosing to stay out of the fray. They decide not to have premarital sex and avoid using drugs and alcohol. This does not mean their lives are unscathed. Many of these same teens struggle with depression, anxiety, peer pressure, mood swings and relational difficulties. When they do, they tend to take out their emotions on their family.
Coming of age pitfalls
Other teens we know are not avoiding the pitfalls they face. They have succumbed to the messages of media and social media. They sext and engage in other edgy and even illegal behavior as they throw off the shackles of their parents’ expectations. It goes without saying that moms of these teens are distraught and the family life in these homes is often turbulent.
What happens to us mothers as we face various hardships with our teens? We tend to search back through our parenting archives and dredge up memories of mom-fails. We end up feeling a bit responsible for all that is going on in the heart and life of our teenagers. We start to believe we caused the difficulties in our adolescent. If only we had parented differently. If we had been more firm or more lenient, spent more time, given more space, or done some other key action, our child would not be the way they are. We give ourselves way too much credit and in the process, we end up carrying a ton of unnecessary and unhelpful guilt. I know because I’ve been down that road with my own teen son.
A useless emotion
Guilt is a relatively useless emotion. We tend to use it to beat ourselves up and in the process, we stay stuck in the past, unable to move forward into a productive future. Remorse is a different matter. We can experience a type of sorrow which leads us to make a change. When we forgive ourselves and let go of whatever we did in the past, we are freed up to effectively parent.
I struggled with this process as my teen son entered his 14th summer. We were seeing signs of rebellion in him which gave me great anxiety along with constant waves of guilt. It was in a counseling session that the dam cracked open and I saw that I didn’t cause the challenges my son was facing. Releasing my guilt allowed me to start to be able to focus more on what he needed now in this season of his life.
Chaos and crisis
Through that experience and the ensuing few years of parenting him through some chaotic times and several crises, I started talking more intimately with other moms of teenagers. I found I am far from alone in my emotions and concerns. Most of us are facing some anxiety and we feel ill-equipped to navigate the teen years. These conversations spurred me to write a book, “Parenting Your Teen Through Chaos & Crisis.”
In the book, I help moms release guilt. I also talk about letting go of control and learning to take the role of an influencer in the life of your teen. While sharing from my life and my professional knowledge (with my Masters in Marriage and Family Therapy), I help moms of teens learn where they do have the power to choose. Moms will learn how to allow consequences to potentially shape the choices their teen is making. I wrap up the book by talking about ways to cultivate a positive relationship with a teenager. I remind moms of the importance of having an extended network of support as I share various ways to pursue connections. In eight manageable chapters, I aim to equip moms to weather the storms of the teen years and not only survive, but thrive through this seasons of motherhood.
The book launches on Amazon (click to pre-order paperback and Kindle) on February 28th in both print and ebook formats. If you are raising a preteen, teen or know someone who is, I hope this book will provide hope and encouragement as well as some solid practical help.