Parenting Raising Healthy Kids Teens and Tweens

Stay Engaged with Your Teenagers

Getting Real with Shadra Bruce

After being a parent for 20+ years, I can tell you that it’s OK to get tired. Motherhood is a full-time job, and when you’re balancing the needs of multiple people for that many years, you can get a little burnt out. They say the youngest child gets freer reign because parents are too exhausted to keep the same stringent effort going. I think it’s because we’ve learned what’s really important to draw a line in the sand about, and we’ve just become more efficient parents. While it’s funny to joke about, it’s so important to stay engaged with your teenagers, whether it’s your first or last.

My daughter, Anika, is the youngest of five kids. Although we have successfully raised four of our children to adulthood at this point, she still needs us. There are still two adult children living with us, along with the spouse of one of those children, their toddler, and their soon-to-arrive newborn baby. There’s a lot to juggle in this household and a lot of demands, so it can be easy to forget the teenager who doesn’t cause much of a fuss is still just a 15-year old girl.

Anika doesn’t cause trouble. She loves and excels at school, does her homework without a fight, does her chores, and is a joy to be around. Her list of extracurriculars is impressive, and she spends her free time quietly reading or working on her next book. Anika has skipped two grades, is set on her plans for the future, has already applied for college, and is researching scholarships to help fund her dreams. What does she need us, her parents, for? Anika seems to have a handle on everything.

However, despite the chaos of our household and having been through the teenage years four times already, my youngest daughter needs me now more than ever.

There are some real positives to being the youngest. I can afford things like season tickets to the Broadway series at our local playhouse. I can buy what Anika needs without worrying that it is taking from the grocery budget to do so. Kira, our oldest daughter, did not have that luxury. But it can really suck being the youngest, too. All of Anika’s siblings have privileges as adults that she doesn’t yet have, whether it’s voting or going to events without asking permission. She wants to keep up. She wants to do what her older siblings do. She doesn’t want to sit at the kid’s table, so to speak. So she feels pressure to have all the answers and to “keep up,” or risk being left out, lectured by everyone older than her, or made to feel like she’s still a baby. For as mature as Anika is, she still has very little control over her life.

Right now is when Anika needs me the most. All of our teenagers need us to stay engaged, even when they seem completely in control. There are still emotions that need worked through and questions that need answered, even if they act like they know everything or have a handle on it all. They need to know that you’re there for every step, even if you’re not necessarily needed.

Most importantly, as the youngest, she needs to know she’s not a burden. I might be tired and stressed because of adult kids, kids-in-law, and grandkids, but right now, Anika is my priority. Our teens may be creeping towards adulthood, but they deserve the same time and attention and support as the firstborn as they get there. Hopefully you’re less anxious the second, third, and fourth time around, but each child brings new challenges. Each child has unique needs that emerge at different periods of their life, and you simply don’t know when your teenager is going to need you.

I won’t lie that it’s hard to balance everything in my life, but my teenager deserves the priority. My grandchild has her own parents, and the rest of my children get a different type of support now that they’re adults. We’re on the last leg of my youngest child’s journey, and it’s too early to let her loose. She still needs me, even when she won’t admit it, and I’ll do everything I can to demonstrate that I’m here.


Adult Children Parenting Teens and Tweens

Letting Your Kids Fail is Good Parenting

Getting Real with Shadra Bruce

Letting your kids fail is good parenting. There are risks in every decision. As moms, we encourage our children to try and try again, but sometimes it’s easy to skim over what failing teaches us. Sometimes it’s not as simple as getting back on that bike until you can successfully ride it. There are life decisions, especially as children get older, that are much more complicated. Try and try again doesn’t pertain to every scenario and believing that success must come after failure can be really harmful.

Failure is not as negative as it’s portrayed.

We’re often taught to believe that failing is disastrous, but letting your kids fail teaches them so much. Our inability to accomplish something doesn’t mean that we’ve either made a mistake somewhere or that something is inherently wrong with who we are. Failing is a critical experience, and it’s a strong guiding force in future decisions. With support, our kids can realize that failing can be a positive experience.

There is a lesson in every failure.

Life is an experiment. Every time your kids fail they learn something. As parents, it’s our job to protect them from the most drastic consequences, but we should also encourage them to get up and brush themselves off. If plan A didn’t work, don’t push them right into plan B. It’s ok to let them know that sometimes it’s time to go back to the drawing board. It’s ok to change your mind, change directions, change your path – no matter how long you’ve been working toward something. Sometimes, you have to scrap the plan completely or change some of the strategy and try again. Your kids will discover what went wrong and they will have you right there with them to help figure it out.

It’s about the journey.

Failing is not the nightmare everyone thinks it is. Even successful corporations are discovering that when their employees feel safe to fail, creativity and innovation soars. People are happier and feel confident that they can try something new without being punished. Your kids deserve the same freedom, and if you are there to prevent every tragedy, they aren’t going to learn anything. Failing builds confidence in that they can succeed if they keep persisting. Failing teaches that it’s ok to regroup and start over.

This is especially important as our kids start to venture out on their own. Our kids know that if things don’t go right, there is always a place for them with us. There is no chastising for not succeeding. There is only celebration in the journey, the learning, and the experience. There is only encouragement to figure out the next step. You don’t want to miss letting your children know that it’s ok to decide that maybe bike riding isn’t their thing, and that it’s ok to never learn to ride at all. Simply because your child fails at one thing, doesn’t mean they can’t succeed at another. The only way to know is to try and fail, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.


Let's Talk Parenting Teens and Tweens

Why You Need to Be a Stickler About Curfew

Getting Real with Shadra Bruce

No teen is a fan of curfew, and it comes as no surprise when they start pushing back when you set limits on their adventures. Your teen may try negotiating the point, but curfew is just one of those things that parents shouldn’t budge on.

Even Teens Still Need Rest

Despite your teenager’s insistence that they are “grown up,” they still need rest. The human brain is not finished fully developing until the early 20s, which means sleep is actually more important now than when they were little.

Many teenagers are involved in extracurriculars that keep them busy throughout the week, and no matter what they think or say, it’s not mean of you to insist that they spend some time relaxing at home.

Teens Are Learning Boundaries

There is absolutely nothing that your teenager needs to be doing late at night, but we got quite a few eye rolls and exasperated sighs from Kira when we told her that no, she could not go joy-riding with her friends. Stores are closed at nine or ten, movies stop running at midnight, and only the bars are still open. Not only do we try to keep our kids safe, but we try to communicate the necessity of making good choices. It’s important to teach responsible behaviors while your kids are still in your household.

Of all five kids, so far Kira is the only one to have really pushed her boundaries, and became an expert at getting home one minute before curfew. But no excuse, teenage tantrum, or other level of convincing could let us believe that she needed to be out past midnight. There’s nothing for underage kids to do late at night, and it is better that we help our kids avoid the temptation of bad influences. The next couple years will tell if Anika, our youngest, will push the limits of curfew in her own way.

It may be true that your teenager only wants to hang out, watch movies or play video games at their friend’s house on a Saturday night. Some overnights are completely acceptable, especially at another parent’s home that you trust to uphold similar standards. For the most part, however, we have opted to enforce a curfew and keep our kids at home at night.

Hold tight to the boundaries you have established, and encourage your teens to enjoy the time at home. They will be out on their own soon enough, and hopefully they’ll take the lessons you have taught with them.

Let's Talk Teens and Tweens

Raising Mature and Respectful Teens

Getting Real With Shadra Bruce
At one point in your child’s life you were the source of all knowledge, and you could not possibly be wrong. Now your child is a teenager and you could not possibly be right. How are you supposed to raise a mature teen when they are rebelling against every word you say before it has even been uttered?
Communicating effectively with your child has never been more difficult – or more important. It may seem like they are only working to irritate you, but they are simply trying to discover who they are as individuals.

Every teen has moments where they are flat out disrespectful. Your knee-jerk reaction is not always the best one, so think before you handle this monster that has suddenly appeared. The best way to teach respect is to demonstrate it. By showing your teen respect first, you will be commanding it in return without saying. You are the example to your teen and you need to practice what you preach: treat others how you would like to be treated.

It is essential that you and your teen discuss everything of importance. Nobody likes “the talk.” Not the parents and not the children. Lock the doors if you must, but you and your teen need to have open communication. If they do not hear it from you, it is guaranteed that they will hear some version of the truth from somewhere else. You want to be their main source of information, as well as their confidante when they need one.

When you do sit down to talk with your teen it does not always have to be serious either. Ask them questions about school and friends, and let them open up to you. This is a great opportunity to help advise your teen on making mature life choices.

Your teen is searching for their individuality and they are not going to find it with you holding their hand the entire way. For them to become mature adults you must be willing to let go. The best way to learn is through experience and I am sure you would rather have your teen make mistakes while you are still there as a safety net. The lessons they will learn are a valuable part of growing up. A mature teen is one who knows that while they have the power to make decisions, they are aware that every decision has a consequence.

Although your teen will never believe that you were all-knowing like they once did, they will gain a new respect for you that comes with being respected as an individual.