Tips to Mothering Teenagers in the Modern Age
My children, whom I shall refer to as Bottomless Pit 1 and 2 (BP1 & 2) for the duration of this article, are my pride and joy. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t take motherhood lightly. I have had 2 miscarriages and a third child who passed away in infancy. BP1 & 2 are literally my life.
So what makes mothering teenagers so hard in the modern age and why are things different to before?
It’s not that they are less attentive or superficial or technologically absorbed. It’s that teenagers right now can Google everything they need to know without asking for help or advice from a parent or sibling or favorite aunt. It’s simply that they don’t actually need us — or that’s what they think.
The reason I know this is untrue is because I belong to a group on Facebook where we help each other make “small” decisions and most of the posters are between the ages of 15 and 25.
I have never posted myself, but I am listed as an “Experienced Parent” and my advice is generally received well. I tend to only respond to topics I am well-versed on, so if it’s about your cat, your school, your sibling, your job, your crush, or your clothes — I’ll share my opinion and experience.
The thing I’ve noticed is that most of those questions could have been resolved within the family circle. Turning to your mom to ask about which courses you should take next semester or what you should wear to a school dance used to be how we did things—how we still DO things in my home.
But a lot of kids feel disjointed from their families. They are aloof and feel unloved. They turn to strangers on the internet to convince them that they are worthy and enough. And why is that? Why do kids crave so much attention from people online? Is it because they get none at home?
My family share two meals together every day, sometimes 3. We sit at the same table and talk about things happening in the world, make silly puns, tell dad jokes, and reminisce about the ones we’ve lost. Never a day goes by that I don’t make eye contact with my children.
At 18 and 15, BP1 & 2 troll each other mercilessly — usually on my bed between snuggling up to me. We speak openly about any topic and I share my worldly wisdom with them while they share with me fresh perspectives gleaned through their own lived experiences.
We’re not perfect, and we sure don’t pretend to be, but we have an unspoken rule in my bedroom that works. For one, when a kid walks into my room, I close my laptop or put down my phone because I am a workaholic and can be found on my computer 10 hours a day, including today — a Saturday.
Closing my laptop signifies my commitment: I am open for conversation. I see you and I respect your presence in my room. I am listening.
So when I visit their rooms, they afford me the same respect. Laptops are closed, headphones come off, phones are put down, and I’m invited to get into bed or climb onto the couch or sit on the carpet with them. For however long I stay, they remain attentive and conversational.
The thing is, it’s so damn easy to become lost in the worlds we have created online with our Facebook friends, Instagram stories, Twitter, and Snapchat. Being present for our children should never be taken for granted and we should not be content to give them less than they deserve.
If we’re being honest, it’s not just the kids that have fallen through the rabbit hole. It’s us. We’re the ones on the dark side, conjuring up conspiracy theories and Reddit threads. We have the time, we just don’t use it as wisely as we could. And so we have 15 year olds asking strangers for life advice online.
I’m not saying it’s not a privilege to be able to share meals with my kids or spend time with them, but I think if you are at home and intentionally ignoring them in favor of technology, stop. As a gamer and a mom, I urge you to spend time with your children when you can. You won’t regret it.
This modern age should be no different in terms of parenting than any other. Don’t use iPad nannies when facetiming YOU in real life is all your child really wants, regardless of age. You don’t want your children asking strangers for help online. They just need to know you have their back. That is all.