This post is made possible by support from the Center for Parent and Teen Communication. All opinions are my own.
Vinyl records, which were a big part of my childhood, are “in” again (go figure). The experience of listening to music on a record player was so different from our digital listening routines these days.
Transitions between songs are quieter with digital over vinyl. We can control things remotely (no walking across the room to pick up an actual needle and move it!). We can change the order of songs.
Real life (and real parenthood) are a little clunkier than digital. They’re more like vinyl — transitions are rougher and it takes more work to play the whole record.
Since my kids are 19 and 22, I feel like I’m on the last song of the LP record. Pretty soon, the album is going to be at its end, circling around without making any further sounds, waiting for me to move on.
Enough nostalgia for the 70s … let’s drop the needle and get started on a parenting playlist, with some help for the Center for Parent and Teen Communication.
Track 1: Life’s about more than grades
How do you know if your teen is happy? That’s one of the challenges of parenting teens. The way they express their emotions, their words, the “self” they present through social media (and in real life) are designed to present a carefully curated picture. Grades don’t define a teen, this author says. So true. My son was not one to worry about grades in high school As a former valedictorian, I didn’t get that. I worried he would not be a success as an adult. At 19, he has a certificate in automotive collision and works full-time, happily.
Track 2: Questions are OK
Teens want the answer to “who am I?” says this author (and they probably want to know it yesterday or at least NOW). But teenagers are changing so rapidly (I’m betting you, as an adult, don’t have some of your life choices pinned down). Some teenagers are also grappling with their sexual identity and may not be sure you will be accepting if they are unsure of their gender identity. Develop yourself a nice poker face and be prepared for unexpected questions. Our kids need a safe place to ask.
Track 3: Keep Your Cool
Well, isn’t THIS an easy one to advise you on now that we are empty nesters? Our house is so calm, with all the screaming and chaos behind us. “How you feel links to how you think,” says this author, and it’s so true! The best thing you can do for yourself to get through the challenge of parenting teens is to get your thoughts centered (because everything else will be conspiring to throw you off). Get a therapist or at least an objective friend. Equilibrium often seems out of grasp when parenting teenagers, but actively seek it, for your own sake. It’s especially hard when (imagine the needle in the groove between two songs now) …
…You can’t stop failure from happening!
That’s the point of Track 4: Failure’s gonna happen, and it’s not going to feel good for either of you
I call myself (now) a “recovering helicopter parent,” but I’m not proud of the micromanaging I did during my kids’ childhoods. I wanted my daughter to get the part in the play and my son to win the soap box derby. Newsflash — you don’t always win. Sometimes you didn’t put the work in. Other times the judges just want something else. That’s life, right? It’s the best (and only) laboratory for the rest of life that I know. Shield from from failure now, and it’s going to be more jarring when they inevitably stumble later.
This snack encourages family dinners and family time. I have to admit I have not been a perfect role model about this, and I will pay the price, as will family ties. Stress management is a family affair, says this piece. It’s true, and trust me your teenager isn’t going to be the one setting it up.
Track 6: Hero to hypocrite
“Mom or Dad can be called a hero one minute and a hypocrite in the next breath,” says this author. OH YES. The things teens say may change rapidly within a matter of minutes. We parents may wonder what they meant the most. Ultimately, they’re still watching you. Be the adult they need, even if they won’t acknowledge it.
Track 7: Integrity is Key
Earlier this month, we all looked on in shock as the news broke that celebrities many of us admired had gone to expensive, unethical, and outlandish lengths to get their kids into prestigious schools. They used an intermediary to bypass the hard stuff: interviews, GREs, tryouts, the heartbreak of rejection letters. Even if you do everything else wrong. Even if this LP record was just a single, the “song” that would matter most is written here: INTEGRITY IS KEY.
My children both happened to be home at the same time recently (this is rare, because they live different places and just don’t make it home much). I was in my home office at the other side of the house. I heard them talking to each other … like real bona fide civil adults!
This was a moment I wasn’t sure — in the haze of juggling two children with very different personalities and takes on the world — I would ever see (hear, I guess).
The other thing about vinyl records is that you could turn them over and listen to a whole different set of things on the other side.
If you were to be designing the other side of my “Mom’s Album,” which of these “snacks” would be your tracks? Drop a note in the comment and let me know which one gets you thinking the most! (There are 18 more to choose from here.)
Look at the Center for Parent and Teen Communication as your “record store” for all the resources you need to figure out how to navigate the challenges (and joys — I promise there are some!) of life with teens.
Wife of one, Mom of two, Friend of many. My pronouns are she/her/hers.