Remember when I said homeschooling teens is easier than homeschooling littles? I wasn’t lying. But you know what? Parenting teens can be hard. That means that some days homeschooling teens can be hard. Homeschooling doesn’t give you a teenage angst immunity card.
Homeschooling doesn’t mean a free pass in which your teen isn’t going to talk back, make poor decisions, or outright rebel. I’ve got good kids, but they’re still teens struggling to discover who they are in this world. The road to adulthood has not been without its bumps and bruises. I have grey hairs etched with each of their names.
I’ve discovered something about the trials of life – they’re only trivial if you’re not the one living them. Sure, we can all think of someone who is going through something worse than we are, but a wise friend once told me:
“Sometimes living through the hard stuff is just hard, no matter how insignificant it is compared to someone else’s hard.”
When you’re homeschooling (or just plain old parenting) teens, some days take you to the edge of sanity and leave you teetering on the edge before bringing you back – and, as you teeter, you sometimes wonder if you’re going to topple over.
So how do you go about keeping your sanity when homeschooling teens?
Find a support network
Last Monday, I had a lunch date with a friend. It wasn’t about food – it was about sanity. Each of the previous few weeks had brought a new trial – one for each kid – and I needed a listening ear.
In the past few weeks, I’ve had moments of doubting myself as a parent, a Christian, and a homeschool mom. However, when I opened up and talked to a few trusted friends, I discovered that I’m not alone. The circumstances may not be the same, but the ache in a mama’s heart when a child – even an adult one – is hurting or making poor decisions is universal.
Discovering that you’re not alone and that other good, happy, still-sane parents have experienced the same hurts, frustrations, anger, fear, and self-doubt make it all a little more bearable. Sometimes, that one word of wisdom from a friend who’s walked a similar road is enough to give you hope, lighten your load, and put your situation back into perspective.
I know that not all of my readers aren’t Christian and won’t relate to this, so feel free to move on to the next point. However, I would be being completely dishonest if I didn’t say, I’m not sure how I’d have made it through the last few weeks without my faith. My dad and I were talking last week. He said there comes a time in every Christian’s life when he or she has to decide, “Do I really believe what I say I believe?”
I’ve had that moment in recent weeks and the answer is a resounding yes. I have spent so much time in prayer lately, asking God for wisdom and guidance for me as I walk alongside my kids in their transition to adulthood. I’ve prayed over their relationships with Christ and others, for their safely, and for God’s wisdom and guidance for them because they’re not little kids anymore. I can set boundaries and guidelines and I can lay out expectations, but in many areas they have to make their own decisions.
Knowing that their Heavenly Father loves them more than I do has been such a comfort. Knowing that Christ is their Savior and that He isn’t going to let them go has been a truth I’ve clung to.
Remember your teen years
Okay, this may not be the best suggestion for everyone. Remembering your own teen years and thinking of your teens making some of the same choices you did might not be a very sanity-saving exercise.
That being said, sometimes I tend to take the things that my teens say and do personally. I start trying to figure out where I went wrong. Was it a terrible parenting mistake? Have I not lived out my faith consistently enough? Did I let them play the wrong video games, watch the wrong TV shows, or read the wrong books?
Is it all because we homeschooled? Because, y’all, when those hard days come, everything every naysayer ever said to you about homeschooling will come back to torment you – even when the hard day really has not the least little thing to do with homeschooling. Is your teen acting sullen and withdrawn? It must be because we homeschool. He got a speeding ticket? Homeschool. She watched that movie you told her she couldn’t see? Homeschool. Missed curfew? Homeschool.
Maybe, just maybe, it’s not you, but them. Really. We think parenting teens is hard, but do you remember being one? Those were some difficult years. It goes back to the statement, “Sometimes living through the hard stuff is just hard, no matter how insignificant it is compared to someone else’s hard.”
Sure, teens may not have a mortgage, overdue bills, an aging parent to care for – or a teen to raise – but transitioning from childhood to adulthood can be hard. Raging hormones can make them lose their minds for a minute and say things they wouldn’t normally say and don’t really mean. A growing need for independence may result in poor decision-making and failure to consider the consequences.
Home needs to be a soft place to land. And, I need to remember that all those things I may take personally are not necessarily a negative reflection on me, my parenting, my faith, or the fact that we homeschool. They’re just a part of growing up.
Find common ground
When kids are little, it’s easy to sit down and color, play Play-doh, or build with Legos. It’s vital in the teens years to find and foster areas of common interest that allow you to connect with your teens. I’ll confess that I’m not very good at this, but I’m making it a priority to try. While I agree with the popular caution to be a parent, not my kids’ best friend, I do want to maintain a few best friend qualities. I want to be someone my kids can confide it, ask advice of, and have fun with.
One of the best things I ever started doing was having one-on-one breakfast dates with my kids. They are something we all look forward to. Often, we just chat about superficial things and I’m okay with that. I don’t want them to feel like every breakfast is going to be a counseling session – but I like that we all know the option is there for those deeper conversations.
I’m trying to find areas of common interests with each of my kids. It can be more difficult as they grow and develop their own interests – especially when those interests involve driving them to different classes and activities in the afternoons and evenings. I’m thankful that we have, for the most part, been able to preserve family meal times, but lately I’ve seen the need to make sure that we’re carving out other times to connect, both one-on-one and as a family.
The teen years can be tough. While homeschooling does foster close-knit relationships, it’s not a “get out of jail free” card for the turbulence the teen years can bring. It can also mean that you’re with your teens – a lot – and while that’s largely positive, it can also cause some moments in which you can almost feel the grey hairs sprouting.
All of these tips are applicable to parenting teens no matter where they attend school, but because we’re with our teens so much of the time, they are especially important for homeschooling parents because some days keeping our sanity may be the most important box we check for the day.
What tips would you offer a homeschooling parent who’s having one of those days (or weeks, or months, or years)?
Discover more tips from the iHN bloggers for keeping your sanity while reaching your goals. We’re talking about everything from homeschooling to exercise.
This post is linked to the Hip Homeschool Hop.