Out of all the work and jobs, I have done, parenting is by far the toughest I have encountered and parenting the adolescent years can feel like a tornado coming through your life. You hope and pray that you are doing a great job raising well-rounded children – but the *something* happens and you are questioning your parenting skills repeatedly.
When my eldest was still in high school, I thought he would NEVER graduate. Getting him to school wasn’t a problem, but staying in class, was a whole different topic. But alas, he did graduate even if it was just barely. Following graduating, he lived on my couch for a bit before I said no more and that it was time to get up and get a job – and he did. In a matter of weeks, he totaled my car and it is by divine intervention that he walked away with no injuries. In a matter of weeks, he enlisted into the Army.
And years later I am in awe – because he continues to stand for what he believes in and live in a way that is true to him. I learned that I don’t always agree with him, BUT from the looks of it, I’ve done my job well.
During this time, I found myself once again being a mom of a teenager of a different kind, the kind that goes to school but struggles to fit in and have friends. The kind that is sensitive and honors the “I am there for you no matter what” system – even if in the end, it means he is getting hurt. And yet, no matter the color of his hair or the ability to play bass guitar, he feels like he doesn’t fit in – and I could tell him that he was meant to stand out but it didn’t do any good.
In the prime of adolescent years, yelling for help on Facebook – waiting for me to reach out to him – when all the while I tell him, I will find someone for him to talk to and he can’t say it. And then my phone rang with the guidance counselor on the other line – my cool sweet sensitive adolescent has reached the point where he just needed help to reach me.
And years later, as he is now an adult and I once again watch another human standing up for what he believes in, but not in a rush to figure out this thing called life – and there’s no hurry to decide what he wants to be.
And just like that, I once again find myself in the throws of being a mom to a teenager and this one also so different from his brother. Different challenges as they relate to his disability and us guiding him into the transition into adulthood – balancing autism and realizing that he’s in the stage of being a teenager and trying to figure out the lines of what to accept and allow and what to course correct.
Parenting is hard. You see the signs of adolescent years and some of the behaviors you chalk it up to typical adolescent drama. I’ve never steered away from taking my kids to therapy because I know that I cannot be everything for them and that sometimes the challenges are bigger than myself.
It can be incredibly hard to talk to your kids about their day and their struggles and yet kids don’t always want to reach out to their parents – not because of bad parenting – but because the kids want to protect you of the demons that hide inside of them. Not every teenager is depressed but every teenager struggles – being an adolescent may be one of the hardest times in a kid’s life. And when you feel at a loss on how to support and help them, having someone on your side to guide you can be the best thing for you and them (even if they don’t agree).
My youngest and I are currently meeting with a therapist every week, as we are in this new phase in our life and hoping for him to gain the skills to maneuver adulthood to the best of his ability. If you are concerned about your adolescent, here are some signs to pay attention to and possibly seek professional guidance!
- Sadness or hopelessness
- Irritability, anger, or hostility
- Tearfulness or frequent crying
- Withdrawal from friends and family
- Loss of interest in activities
- Changes in eating and sleeping habits
- Restlessness and agitation
- Feelings of worthlessness and guilt
- Lack of enthusiasm and motivation
- Fatigue or lack of energy
- Difficulty concentrating
- Thoughts of death or suicide
If you observe these or other symptoms, call the pediatrician or a counselor to help you sort it out. There is nothing wrong with seeking help if anything is and will be the best thing you can do for your teen!