If you’re the parent of a teenager, you know that over-the-top feeling of Parenting Fatigue. You’re exhausted from always working to keep tight boundaries, teaching important life lessons, and guarding against all those dangers you hope your teen never has to experience but are afraid they will. You feel the endless requirements of parenting, wonder if this year your teenager will settle into high school, stand up to the bullies, and graciously accept household chores without argument, or if this is just a fantasy you need to let go of. You’re tired from constant financial worries, concerns over your teen’s budding relationships, and wondering if your teenager’s friends are building them up or taking them down the wrong pathway. Substance abuse, teen sex, eating disorders, bad attitudes, poor grades… there seems to be no end to things you can worry about and can feel completely powerless to protect your teenager from.
Is it any wonder that you’re tired?
Every single parent experiences Parenting Fatigue at some point. However, the key is to recognize the signs and do something proactive to combat the effects. Only by being mindful of the dangers will you be able to prevent Parenting Fatigue from becoming depression, resentment, or worse.
Recognizing Parenting Fatigue
Here are some signs that you’re suffering from Parenting Fatigue.
- You can’t remember the last time you truly enjoyed spending time with your teenager.
- You can’t remember the last time you did something just for you without feeling guilty.
- You struggle to just make it through your days, grateful for any moment without conflict.
- You’re having a tough time balancing all those “hats” you wear.
- You’re struggling with anger, depression, or anxiety.
- You struggle with constant mental, physical, and spiritual exhaustion.
If you answered Yes to more than three of these six things, you’re struggling with Parenting Fatigue. You’re in very good company! Many parents – some say the majority of parents of teenagers – struggle with these six things and are experiencing Parenting Fatigue.
Once you’ve recognized the problem, what’s next?
Finding Recovery from Parenting Fatigue.
Parenting Fatigue refers to a constellation of symptoms that all parents will recognize. When those symptoms seem to take over your life, its time to do something different. Just barely making it through your days waiting for your kids to become adults for things to be better is no way to live. And if your Parenting Fatigue is at an extreme level, without making some changes you’re setting yourself up for a contentious relationship with your teen as they grow older.
Here are some things that you can do to combat Parenting Fatigue and re-discover your joy.
- Take a look at what you’re doing for your teenager. Many parents don’t make the transition from when their kids are younger and need many things done for them, to the teen years when their kids can – and should – do more and more for themselves. Take some time to make a list of all the ways you’re “doing for”. Do you do your teen’s laundry? Pick up their room? Transport them to endless activities and pick up the chores slack when they don’t follow through on their responsibilities? If the list of what you’re “doing for” your teen is growing, STOP! Teens really can do chores, participate in shopping and preparing and cleaning up meals, and help keep the family budget on track!
- Take a look at your own mental and emotional health. How long has it been since you took some time just for you? Ideally, you need to spend time every day keeping your own mental and emotional life in order. If you’ve let this slide, now is a good time to re-establish healthy emotional habits so you have emotional reserves available. This is about YOU as a person, not YOU as a parent. Only by keeping your internal life healthy will you be able to be the best parent possible for your teenager.
- Be ready to pull in some outside help. Many parents of teenagers have a really tough time admitting they need a little help. But it is a sign of strength, not weakness, to ask for help when you need it. After all, how will your teen learn to ask for help when they need it, if they’ve always seen you refusing to get help with an overwhelming situation? This is especially important if you’re a single parent like me. Support groups can be an enormous help, and are often free. Joining a virtual support group – like on Facebook – can be a big help, but in-person groups are even more powerful. Here you can get ideas, find emotional support, realize you’re not alone in your parenting struggles.
- Let go of your need to have everything be perfect. You’re now being witness to a whole ‘nuther person becoming an adult – celebrate the differences, rather than expecting a “mini-me” from your teenager.
- If conflict is the style of your interaction with your teenager, get a grip on the fact that YOU can only change YOU. This is a tough one for most parents. You can’t really change your teenager, and if they’re determined to be in a bad mood, try to start arguments, or worse, you can’t actually change them. What you can change is YOU. YOU can make a decision to learn a better way of interacting. YOU can take charge of what comes out of your mouth. YOU can choose to lower your voice even on days when your teenager pushes all your buttons!
- Fill your spiritual cup intentionally. Whether this means returning to a church affiliation or simply taking 15 minutes every morning to soak up the peace of nature, you simply must find a way to refill spiritually. We are all spiritual beings, and each person’s journey is unique. Find a way that works for you, and be as regular about refilling your spiritual cup as you are about eating every day.
When you take each day as it comes, being mindful of ways to refill your heart, you will rediscover the joy in parenting even a challenging teenager. Who you are is more than your parenting role, although that role is a big part of your life right now. Find support, ask for a little help when things get overwhelming, and be intentional about doing things that take care of YOU, often. Remember when your child was first born, and those overwhelming first days and weeks? You made it through. These teen years are no different – you’ll make it through! And your teenager will become an adult who has to make their own mistakes and learn from them. By being intentional about refilling your heart, you will be able to enjoy the journey.
What ways work for you to stay in balance and refill your heart when you experience Parenting Fatigue?