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Finding Bridges With Your Teen

By Julie Samrick

Now that 3 out of 4 of my kids are teenagers, I've been thinking I need a mothers' group again like when they were babies. When we first moved from the Bay Area to our current town outside of Sacramento so that I could be a full-time mom I had one infant. The talks I had with other new moms were nothing short of a lifeline for me. At least one morning a week we'd meet- on nice days at someone's home or at a park. On rainy days we'd push our strollers back and forth through an indoor mall. Our topics of conversation grew as our friendships did, but our core topic was our babies. "How many times did he/she wake up last night? What do you like for teething?"

Those years seem easy compared to raising teens. Where are the mommy support groups now? 

This summer I've been reminded that teens want to feel independent- in both their personal beliefs about the world as well as through their actions. The tricky part is that we still need to be there to help guide them. Here have been a few actions that are proving to keep my teenagers and me connected- win/wins for us all. 

  1. Offer food. There is something innate about parents wanting to nourish their kids and the literal way has been doing the trick of late. Two words get my teenagers home lickety-split: "Dinner's ready." I remember when one of my sons was younger and he seemed irritable for several days. I over-thought his behavior, wondering if he was getting enough attention, or if someone had said something cruel. I pulled him aside to see if he was okay. Nearly on the verge of tears, he looked up and said, "I've just been so hungry lately."

    As soon as I started junior high my mom stopped making my lunch and I remember not liking it, but I didn't say anything. This is one reason I have always made my kids' school lunches. When life is confusing or something is getting them down, teenagers don't always want to talk about it, but serving them a meal is one way to keep a connection without any words at all.

  2. Give them opportunities for independence. I'm always questioning whether something is age-appropriate and I'm tested constantly by children on varying degrees of the spectrum: one of my kids makes me laugh out loud sometimes by daring requests, while another one of my teenagers doesn't even want to be left home alone. They are all different, so instead of following some guidebook, we need to know our kids. My older two, 17 and 15, felt pride when we gave them a certain amount of money to shop for Christmas gifts for their siblings, their dad, and me, instead of the usual me taking them. My younger kids like when I ask them to pick out the cereal, for instance, for the household while we're at the store. This strategy in allowing them to test choices in healthy ways will be a benefit when the choices really are completely left to them as adults. 

  3. Model community-building. With the realization that our relationships with other people is what matters most in the entire world after the death of my mom, I've been making it even more of a point to surround my kids with community as much as I can through volunteering together, making more of an effort to see extended family and to host informal get-togethers. The benefits of each have been multi-fold. 

  4. Have skin in the game. My friend recently told me she saw her son wiping down their home's kitchen counters after working at a pizza parlor for the summer. I've seen similar results in our home as well. Part-time jobs are good for more than just money. They teach life lessons teenagers may not learn as young. After working with customers, they might even realize that they actually have it pretty good and that their parents may not be so bossy after all.

The raising teen tips continue to grow. What would you add? 

Julie Samrick is a stay-at-home mother of four children and a published author. Connect with her on Facebook and Twitter. You may write to her at Permission granted for use on
Tags: Behavior, Motherhood-Fatherhood, Parenting, Teens, Tips
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