My girls are 18 and 15 now. So I’ve been wrangling teenage girls for a while. I can’t say much about the specifics of our life because that would be invading the girls’ privacy. I don’t want to do that and anyway, it would make them crabby. But here are a few things I’ve learned:
1. Homemade chicken soup is not as good as almost anything that can be microwaved or comes pre-packaged.
2. Asking questions like “How was school/your day/hanging out with so-and-so?” can make them crabby because you’re being nosy. I ask anyway. I’m a journalist. I tell them it’s in my nature to ask questions.
3. Similarly, asking about homework can be treacherous because it means you think they’re incompetent.
4. It’s always her sister’s fault when the floor or counter is sticky or a glass gets broken or the good black eyeliner has gone missing.
5. Their friends have problems. They are worried about their friends. They are also under stress with school and an assortment of life challenges. They don’t always want to talk about what’s going on. I noticed a big shift towards confiding more in friends around age 14. Sometimes though they just don’t want to worry you. They don’t know that their locked away silence makes you worry more. Try not to worry too much or take this personally. Taking it too much to heart will only make you sad and crabby. Call your mom instead. Vent and apologize for having been a teenager.
6. They are not crabby because of hormones. Just ask them. Go ahead. I dare you.
7. My secret: Sometimes I go on at home like I’m really fine and handling things. Then I get in the car and cry until 5 minutes before I arrive at my destination. Teenagers + divorce is a tough equation.
8. Before you head into one of those dreaded big conversations, spend a minute picturing your lovely as a baby or toddler. All pink-cheeked, curly-headed and perfect. I’m not sure if this helps during the conversation, but I feel calmer and connected to some bigger aspect of parenting than just another discussion about curfew, grades or the mess under her bed. That has to help, right?
9. They want you around. Even if they hole up in their room for long periods of time, they still want you puttering around. If nothing else to supply food. They really are reassured by your presence.
10. It’s okay to ignore the crabbiness. Just carry on as though they are just as chipper as you want to be. Wear your armor loosely. It’s good to know it’s there if you need it. It is hard being a teenage girl. There’s a lot to sort out. Helping them through means being calm as often as possible. Sometimes I really want the concrete markers that let me know I’m doing a good job. Those come, but not always right when we need them. Tell your friends and family about good things your kids do and make them promise to remind you when times get tough.