Parenting teens is tough work, and that fact is getting more and more attention, especially after this powerful blog post. We are intensely focused on helping our kids navigate the tricky waters of adolescence and preparing to launch them into the world with all the necessary information and skills. That makes it ridiculously easy to feel overwhelmed, to be exhausted and to lose sight of who we are as independent adults.
We hear a lot about how stressed teens are, and that’s completely true. Parents of teens are also ridiculously stressed. A 2014 survey by the American Psychological Association called Stress in America found that parents who have a child under 18 at home reported higher stress levels than other adults, and they report doing less to manage their stress.
When our kids were little, I feel like there was a lot of talk about putting the oxygen mask on ourselves. I don’t know that teen parents hear that enough, if at all. But it’s a must.
Self-care is critical.
Not only does it make parenting more doable, I think it’s part of parenting itself. It is modeling for your kids how to be a healthy adult. Here are a few favorite pieces of advice I’ve seen about self-care for parents of teens.
Self-care doesn’t have to involve a trip to the spa, or be expensive
Remember that self-care should not lead to you worrying about time and money. It doesn’t have to be big. Small but meaningful actions that help you be more mindful can have a big impact.
“This doesn’t necessarily mean self-care is a weekly trip to the spa or lavish vacations. Rather, self-care involves building healthy and rejuvenating physical, emotional, mental, relational, and spiritual practices into daily life. For some this may simply involve turning off all electronics an hour before bed. Others may find taking a walk with a friend or neighbor to be key for increasing well-being. You can’t stop being a parent, but you can incorporate small, daily practices that keep you sane and happy in the midst of the parenting whirlwind.” – My Parenthetical (They offer 50 ideas for self-care here. My favorites include giving and getting hugs from family members, finding things that make you laugh and listening to music. There are others that make my list below.)
That also means that self-care isn’t necessarily about splurging. Just as caring for our kids is about doing the hard work and not just going with their every whim, caring for ourselves means doing the hard work, too. In the Forbes article “Self-Care Is Not an Indulgence. It’s a Discipline,”
Self-care is also a discipline because it’s not something you do once in awhile when the world gets crazy. It’s what you do every day, every week, month in and month out. It’s taking care of yourself in a way that doesn’t require you to “indulge” in order to restore balance. It’s making the commitment to stay healthy and balanced as a regular practice.
I loved this article in Time that explained how friendship “helps protect the brain and body from stress, anxiety and depression” and that four or five friends is enough to reap the benefits. As parents of teens, it can be tough to find time for friends, but it’s really important. Not only is it good for your health, those friendships will be important when your kiddos fly the nest. Having your own life will make that transition a bit easier. The article also offers advice on how to develop and nurture those friendships, including:
“If you’re trying to replenish a dried-up friendship pool, start by looking inward. Think back to how you met some of your very favorite friends. Volunteering on a political campaign or in a favorite spin class? Playing in a band? “Friendships are always about something,” says Rawlins. Common passions help people bond at a personal level, and they bridge people of different ages and life experiences.”
Reduce the Mental Load
There’s been much discussion of the mental load in the past year or so. One mom explains how she reduced it in this article. Eliminate and delegate were big steps and while we moms know that it’s not easy to give up something, the benefits can be well-worth the effort. Especially with teens, see what you can delegate to them. (Laundry? Making meal on a weekend? Find tips for getting kids to do chores here.) When you delegate to a teen, not only are you helping yourself, you help them develop some life skills and learn some valuable lessons.
Here’s my non-expert advice as the mom of a teen who isn’t great at self-care but who is trying to be better:
I find it really hard to get enough sleep with early and late practices, making sure the teen isn’t staying up too late, wanting to get alone time with my spouse, and maybe having a few minutes to read a book before bed. But I also find that the world, and what my teen throws at me, is a lot tougher to deal with when I’m running on little sleep. Also, sleep isn’t as easy for us adults as it is for teens. (I really think instead of saying “sleep like a baby” it should be “sleep like a teen”) Which makes it even more important to follow good sleep practices like no devices an hour before bed, consistent sleep and wake times, and splurging on great jammies. (I’m guessing it’s been a while since you’ve done so.)
Spend time in nature.
A few of these articles touch on the fact that disconnecting is important. Taking it a step farther by not only unplugging but getting outside and in nature can do wonders for the soul. I know that it’s tough for those of us in colder climates where there is still snow and temps aren’t great, but even a quick walk can do the trick.
Go with your emotions.
Moms of tweens and teens know all too well that fighting feelings can be tough.
As moms, we often feel that we don’t have time to be sad or confused or just plain over all of it. We stand at the ready with a smile, an answer, and a ton of enthusiasm. But I’ve found that fighting sadness when it comes doesn’t make it go away. It may work temporarily, but those emotions come back and demand attention. We want our kids to know that sadness is an acceptable emotion and not the end of the world.
I struggle with this. A lot. But I read somewhere that self-care is not always supposed to be fun and it’s not always what’s easy. What’s right and best is often neither of those two things. But the benefits of exercise are tremendous and while staying on the couch feels tremendous, too, as I know all too well, making the effort and moving your body has both short and long term benefits. Some people love running, others love yoga. (Where are my fellow fans of child’s pose?) Figure out what works for you and maybe you’ll even meet some friends doing it – two birds with one activity!
Keep a Journal.
One reason raising teens can be tough is because parents can’t always share their kids’ struggles with others – teens need privacy. But keeping it all in isn’t great for parents. Journaling has been shown to have several mental health benefits.
Unlike many moms, alcohol isn’t on the list of self-care options that work well for me. I know that mom wine culture is huge. It’s just that while an occasional glass is lovely, it doesn’t leave me feeling better. This article in the New York Times talks a bit about how there are other stress relief options than alcohol. As one mother explained, “These aren’t sexy methods of self-care, and they don’t offer the same degree of relaxation as a bottle of wine, but they don’t come with the same risks either.”
You May Also Like: Why it’s so important to know your mandate when parenting a teen
Prior Post: 33 Easy Easter basket ideas for tweens and teens
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