Keeping Your Sanity While Homeschooling Teens
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.
Thank you….really needed this today, this week, this month….well you know!
Yeah, I know. Hang in there.
Great thoughts Kris, I’m so glad you posted this today 🙂
I have 2 kids in their 20’s that are married, with 3 teenagers, a couple elementary aged, a toddler, and infant in the home yet. There are days when I don’t know which way to turn. However, through the years I have found that looking at the big picture really helps. In all truthfulness I can hardly remember the difficult days because I focus on what is working and the relationships that are being built. I love my teenagers and the long talks and coffee runs.
Gosh, it doesn’t stop being a challenge when they are teenagers – try dealing with a 20 year old O_o who thinks they are grown, but are still being supported by you. Now that’s a challenge. I really don’t believe the challenges of parenting end until around 25 years old. I believe that’s an age when young people kind of ‘get it’ and are out of your house and on their own way (hopefully).
I honestly am not sure it ever stops. My 19-year-old who lives at home and thinks she’s mostly grown will be 20 in just a few months, so I think I’m getting a taste of that challenge, too. However, as I mentioned, I’ve talked to my parents about their adult children who don’t always make great choices. The worry and stress don’t seem to get much better. Apparently, I’m going to worry about them until the day I die. 🙂
My mum always says as the children get older the worries just get bigger (think dangerous pregnancies, cancer…) I think you’re right, you never stop loving and so you never stop worrying, because lets face it, when we love someone we want them to be happy.
This was such a great post on so many levels, but most of all for you being you and doing what you do best – which is saying it how it is.
I hope the next few weeks are better and give you no more grey hairs! xx
Your mum sounds like a very wise woman. I think she’s absolutely correct.
Finding a support network has been the hardest thing for both my teen and myself. Hs teen boys are nearly non existent in our area, couple that with moving to a smaller town, where everybody grew up together. It has been hard. Moms of teens are not as easy to ‘break’ in as friends.
I imagine that would be very difficult. We’ve lived in the same area all my life, so I’ve got a pretty strong support network. I appreciate your comment as a reminder to me, the one in the the town where everyone grew up together, to make sure that I’m inviting new moms in and not closing myself off with my circle of long-time friends. Praying that you and your teen both connect with new friends soon.
We had this problem in our last town but God graciously gave my son some great friends here! (We are military and about to move again).
I would encourage you to seek God and to also be open to non homeschool activities such as 4-H, Boy Scouts, Church,etc. See where he leads. There are Christian boys in these groups who go to public school as well and they may be great friends! This is what we did in our previous town and it made all the difference.
So needed this!!! THANK YOU!!
Wow, I needed that today! A friend introduced me to your page just a few minutes ago after reading my frustration with homeschooling my preteen! Thank you for letting me know I’m not alone!
You’re welcome. Your comment made me smile because I think it highlights what many of us need – just to know that we’re not alone.
Oh! I have three 15 year olds (1 girl, 2 boys – triplets) – in the trenches deep! I so appreciate this post tonight! We often experience one extreme or the other – great moments and then a bad moment! It can be very draining! I find myself missing their little selves! It went so fast. And now we’re here…and it happened so quickly! Even homeschooling them when they entered 5th grade did not slow things down. In fact, it seems to have made things go at warp speed! Prayer, my husband, daily walks by myself, and a good support system are what is holding me together. Thank you for your blog. It’s one of my favorites!
I know what you mean about those extremes – and they can happen so quickly! I, too, find myself missing those little kid days more often than I used to.
Thank you so much for this. Ireally, really needed to see we are not the only one going through this!
Thanks so much for posting this. It is SO refreshing to know that there are REAL people out there with struggles. My fb feed is cluttered with “amazing” kids and it has been discouraging, to say the least. My kids have very real struggles. It has been very hard to find a good support system. My 15 year old daughter has many aspergers-like traits. So, you can imagine how difficult it’s been to make friends (for both of us). I’ve been most disappointed in my fellow christians. Those people should be the first place to find support/love when you have a child that is different or struggling. That has not been the case in my experience. Please share most posts like this. Tired of reading about the teens who do amazing things 24/7. Ready for people to get real.
I can so understand your comment. I’ve had moments of disappointment in my fellow Christians recently, as well. The best thing to come out of my most recent disappointment was the determination not to do that very thing to others. Yeah, that’s probably vague. Basically, the kids in the college small group had made my oldest feel a bit invisible and unwelcome. It caused me to consider if I did that to others. I realized that, unintentionally, I probably did. I stopped what I was doing right then and sent a text to someone who had been out for a week or two. It really meant a lot to her. It didn’t do much to help our personal situation, but it did help one less person not feel hurt by Christians.
That was probably too much rambling. All that to say, I get where you’re coming from. We all just need to be a bit more real with each other.
Oh Kelli, please hang in there! I TOTALLY understand and feel empathy with you about constantly hearing about all of these amazing kids and I feel like mine are “average.” BUT THEY’RE NOT! They are God’s children and gifts to us! My prayer lately has been to allow the Lord to help me SEE and LOVE my kids as He does. After all, He created them EXACTLY how He intended them to be. That has helped me a lot! I hope you find true friends and support group that are real.
Where is the “like” button when you need it? I love that prayer you’ve been praying. Thank you so much for commenting!
Great article!!!!… We have 4 “children” – 25,22,20 and almost 15. I think this is one thing that the homeschool community often gets wrong – this idea that’s out there that if we homeschool with the proper curriculum, don’t mix with the public schoolers,__________, etc (Fill in the blank) then our children will be wonderful and if they don’t it’s somehow our fault! During a particularly hard patch with our older son God very clearly whispered to me “it’s not about YOU!”.
Yes, that! If I could boil the whole post down to one idea, that would be it.
Hi Kris, first of all thanks for writing this down it’s totally amazing. I have been home-schooling my 2 kids and it’s pretty amazing to see them mature so well. I agree to your point when you talk about thinking about yourself in our teenage and how we used to be. I am expecting my third baby soon and I am totally motivated and up to home-school him/her as well. It gives a new way of enlightenment and impart what is necessary at what age for our kids. Your write-up totally is a boost to me, thank you again! 🙂
Thanks for this. I’m homeschooling 6 kids. My oldest being 14 I’m very new to this teen thing. I’ve gleaned from all the comments and appreciate words said. I’m off to humble myself and pray now.