It’s amazing when you are pregnant that there are books, magazines, and websites — not to mention any person you come in contact with when you are sporting a baby bump or holding a little one — that give advice on how to care for a baby and eventually a toddler. What fails to happen, however, is the proper preparation for raising a teenager. We think to ourselves, “I was a teenager once, not so long ago, what could be so hard?”
And then one day our sweet and innocent child turns into someone you don’t recognize at all. And it isn’t because they have dyed their hair in rainbow colors, are lining their eyes in enough charcoal to make a streetwalker proud, or suddenly towering over you with muscles bulging from the T-shirt that has been worn for three consecutive days.
No. These are beings that no longer resemble your adorable child who liked to snuggle and listened in awe to every word you said. These are beings that have perfected the eye roll, sarcasm, and hatred toward you that you thought you could never have aimed at your parents, even at your worst day as a teen.
For those of you not yet there, brace yourselves. Here are 5 things you can expect to happen:
They Can Be Overdramatic
Surprised? If you remember your teenage years, you shouldn’t be. Teen hormones really are raging inside them that can lead to serious mood swings, much like the mood swings you experienced when pregnant and you had extra hormones coursing through your body.
What to do: You can try to relate to your teen with a story from your own childhood or you can tell them they are being overdramatic. Both will not have good results. The mood swings are real and to your teen, what they are feeling is so new to them they don’t want to hear about you. They just want someone to listen, love them and comfort them.
My god, the odor coming from my son’s room isn’t natural. I fear it will linger in his room long after he’s moved out. And I know for a fact that a child doesn’t shower every day. He rolls out of bed, hair a mess, throws on a hoodie and goes to school. Often in the same shorts he was wearing the day before. In the dead of winter.
What to do: Take a look around when you’re at school drop off or in a crowd with teens. Are the boys all wearing shorts even though it’s snowing? Likely. Are their heads a mess? Perhaps. Those who look a bit more put together are typically the older teens. Want to know the secret? Girls.
Once a teen takes an interest in a specific girl, you’ll begin to notice more showers, less sweatpants, combed hair (maybe). And once your teen actually has a girlfriend, she will do what we have all done for the men in our lives: Teach them how to dress properly. Your job is over mom, leave it to the next generation. As for the smell? There isn’t anything you can do but stock their bathrooms with lots of deodorant (they won’t tell you when they run out) and push for a weekly laundry visit (trust me, you don’t want to pick up socks in your son’s room at this age).
Their Fashion Sense Is a Nightmare
For every generation, the teens rebel from their parents in an effort to prove they are grownups. While we know they aren’t yet done growing, they want to get from under your care and shadow. And while we can see all the other kids out there wearing the same horrible mid-drift shirts and Cookie Monster hair colors, we don’t want our kids to look like that.
What to do: Don’t try to stop your teen from wearing what they want to express themselves; they are experimenting and trying to fit in. None of us still wear our hair teased a foot high with enough Aqua Net to leave a hole in the ozone and none of our parents (hopefully) are wearing bell bottoms and tie-dye. They’ll find their sense of style.
They Never Come Out of Their Rooms
They sleep all day, are up all night, they’re always on their phones or playing video games, and the mess? Don’t get me started on the fact the clothes are always strewn across the floor and dishes get lost for months.
What to do: The combination of wanting to be on their own and the hormones cause the kids to retreat, but the time on their phones and on video games is their social interaction. And just like the hormones that made you tired during pregnancy, the kids’ are always tired and actually do need more sleep. They should be getting 8 to 10 hours of sleep each day, even if part of those hours comes in the form of a 3-hour afternoon nap.
Give them their space but set some ground rules: Dishes must be returned to the kitchen every night or they’ll be doing dishes for a week, they have to wash their own clothes if they aren’t going to put them away… They’ll eventually start cleaning up after themselves, especially when friends come over.
Their Interests Are Foreign
Every single day my 15-year-old shows me a TikTok or Instagram post she thinks is hilarious that I just don’t get. Some of the TV shows my teens watch are quite questionable and a bit too vulgar for my tastes, as well. After raising a child for more than a decade, we wonder how they don’t seem to have much in common with you.
What to do: Without faking interest (because you should model that it’s ok not to agree), take part in what your teen is trying to show you. They are letting you into their world and willing to share, which is the important thing. You want them sharing and talking to you, and they aren’t going to share the big things with you if they can’t share the little things.
Give them space, listen when they talk to you, and know this phase will pass, just like the Terrible Twos. You’ll get your sweet child back in just a few years.
Lissa Poirot is an award-winning lifestyle writer who covers health, wellness and travel. Her work has appeared on websites such as WebMD, FamilyVacationCritic and the New York Times, as well as print in magazines including Vegetarian Times and Arthritis Today.