As moms, we know raising a teenager can be fun but also challenging at times. Our teens may start pushing away from us to gain some independence. We were that way with our parents when we were teens, so why should we expect anything different from our own kids? Although in today’s times, we have social media and other technology that can often widen the gap between us and our kids.
This week, I have put together a special Mother’s Day blog. I had the pleasure of interviewing Deanne Barrett, MA. Deanne is a mom, writer, and educator dedicated to helping women become a Radiant Mom so that you can lead with the light and love that is uniquely YOURS.
Deanne works with moms all over the globe to connect to deeply sourced LOVE so that they can feel confident in their decisions, clear in their direction, and connected to their teenagers (or pre-teens).
What did you want to do when you were young?
Deanne: I loved English class and could see my staying in the school environment. I also loved art. I was torn between Interior Design or teaching English to high school students. I decided to focus on academics. I got an English degree and then went into teacher training. Got a master’s in education and did for many years. Then when I started having kids and the class sizes were out of control, 40 kids in a class and too much work. I realize my skill wasn’t to teach kids how to write a Shakespeare essay anymore. I had a new set of skills to help parents understand their teenager.
Often, we tell parents of young kids we say just wait till their teenagers. I thought, I love working with teenagers. Of course, there are emotional ups and downs, it can be difficult, but there are many other wonderful things. They are figuring out who they are, thinking out of the box, and challenging the way we do things. It’s uncomfortable, but it’s necessary with what we are dealing with in the world right now. We need them to see things that we cannot because we are so in it.
I decided I want to build a business to support moms and teens who I love.
Your work is so critical now more than ever because the world is so different than when we grew up. How do we equip our kids for life after high school?
Deanne: I love that you say it’s different now because it is and it’s scarier. There is so much pressure on kids now. I spoke with an admissions counselor at an ivy league college. She said if we took every valedictorian from every high school in America, they would not all make it into top colleges. It’s statistically not possible.
The counselor used this to help shift our thinking about what is important for our children. Some kids are going to make it into top colleges and some are not. No matter what, we need our kids to feel whatever they do is beautiful, valued, and needed in the world. They just need to find the place where they feel like they fit. Often, high school is not the place where they find their fit. They are ready to just get out of school – they are done.
This is where we as parents have our challenges with our teenagers. We are just trying to get them through high school. We tell them to just hang in there. Our relationship with our teenagers gets pulled and strained because they are just done with being in school. They start to lose a sense of hope that it will be different because they think the adult world will just be another version of the school world. It really is so different when you are outside of the structure of the institution of school. You can find your tribe, people who share your interests and find your place in the world.
As parents we need to shift our thinking from being afraid of our kids not going to make it into helping them continue to open the door of possibilities – that is where the magic happens.
What are some tips you have for moms on how to connect with their teens?
Deanne: One of the myths we get pulled into believing is teenagers are going to push away from their parents – they may, but sometimes it makes a parent a little too hands off. They say ok, I know you need to be independent so I will give you your space. But as a parent, the leader, you get to lean in because they do need you. Kids are saying back off, in their heart of hearts they really do need you and want you to see who they are, to give them hope that they are going to be ok, and continue to find the place they will fit, and help them know they will find it.
A friend of mine had a dad who was an engineer. The dad wanted him to be an engineer and encouraged his son to take that path. However, the son wanted to be an artist. But his dad thought – you aren’t going to make any money, it’s not practical. The son pursued being an artist and he was fine with his life. He learned to teach as well. The son was living the lifestyle he wanted. He lived in a small apartment was able to create is art and had a life that was meaningful for him that was very different. The parents wondered when he was going to grow up, buy a house, and live a normal adult life. But for the son, he didn’t want that lifestyle.
I love that story because he has been able to lead a successful life that is meaningful for him.
I tell this story because we have the opportunity to lean in and find out who our kid is. What kind of lifestyle do they want? If our kid wants something different, that doesn’t mean they are judging us.
We need to have the courage to listen to our kids and take responsibility.
Moms, how do you connect with your teenager? Tell us in the comments below. In next week’s blog, we’ll dive deeper with Deanne on how to lean in, support, and encourage our kids during tough times.