Confronting teen issues can be scary, because our children are making decisions without us that could put them in harm’s way or even impact them for life. We have to trust that all the advice and comfort we’ve given them for more than a decade will help guide them to the right choices. It’s even harder when they start pulling away from us emotionally, and we feel like they’re no longer sharing their fears, their desires, their plans, their social life and their online activities with us.
I recently interviewed a mom with three teens who has learned how to navigate those tough times. She’s raising 15-year-old twin girls and a 17-year-old boy, and she’s been doing it alone for the past five years since she lost her husband.
She earns enough as a college admissions counselor to support her family financially, but she still had to deal with the loss emotionally just as her kids were hitting their adolescence. As new single mom, Josephine West craved the warmth of family more than ever, but her teenage son grew distant as she struggled to find a new normal for her and her children. She shares 10 hacks that helped her deal with that emotional distance.
Take Care Of Yourself
“After he died, the therapist said, Take care of myself before I take care of them. So I just try to make sure I’m okay in order to take care of them,” said Josephine. But many moms know trying to take care of yourself can feel like an uphill battle when you’re worried about your relationship with your teens.
Expect Them To Pull Away
Josephine said her son started pulling away in eighth grade and freshman year of high school, even though she had always been so close to all three of her children.
Go With Your Gut
As heartbreaking as it was to see her son pull away, Josephine stuck to her instincts and continued to demand they follow the same rules as before — confident her tried and true methods would carry them through the tough times.
Listen And Talk Face To Face
“In front of me, they’re not allowed to be on their phones. So I think that’s a big problem with kids just looking at their phone. So if we’re together they can’t really be on their phone. So I think it helped a lot because then we have to talk especially at the dinner table,” Josephine said. Even when her kids are not home, “I’m not a texter, so I need to hear their voice. So we talk,” she added.
Keep Tabs On Them
“I know where they are. I have the app Life360. That’s my rule: If I pay for their phone, they have to have that app. They don’t mind that they have it,” Josephine said.
Be Patient In The Long Term
Josephine tapped into a key attribute moms need during this teen period — patience, for year after year after year. Her son is now a senior in high school, and the chasm that seemed to push them apart five years ago has dissipated.
Know They Will Reconnect
“He’s coming back” emotionally, Josephine said. She said other moms should just keep asking questions, “and they’ll come back for sure.” Throughout her struggles, Josephine kept the lines of communication open with her teens.
Be Honest With Them
“I’m brutally honest with them, like about drugs and about vaping and about sex,” said Josephine, who said she also is honest about her own past. “I think other parents don’t share with their kids, so they said they appreciate it. They know I’ve made mistakes. They know a lot. So I think it’s helped them because — knock on wood — they haven’t gotten into trouble.”
Now her family is as tight-knit as ever, and that’s helping her navigate some of the big problems that teens confront.
Don’t Judge Their Mistakes
“The vaping — I know they tried it,” Josephine said. “We talked about it, so that was a big one. But they bring up a lot to me, which is good. They even tell me things I don’t want to hear, but I won’t judge. I’ll just give them my opinion. Of course if it’s bad, then I stop them.”
Model Healthy Habits
Reconnecting emotionally with all her children when they were ready helped Josephine figure out how to best take care of herself.
“We work out. I make sure they work out, too, because I think it’s best for everybody . So we try to stay active and relax. I try to make sure I do yoga or some sort of exercise, and I have a good family. My friends are my like my sisters. So keep your friends close, and they will help you too.”
Watch the full story here: