See the other articles in this collection:
• Mom's Stress Guide: Pregnancy and birth
• Mom's Stress Guide: Babies
• Mom's Stress Guide: Toddlers and preschoolers
• Mom's Stress Guide: School-aged children
Your child has morphed into a teenager and your world has been rocked in major fashion.
In many ways, you feel like you're back in the new mommy trenches, except it's a much lonelier experience this time around. You're no longer surrounded by other moms who are eager to compare notes on every aspect of childrearing. (It's one thing to swap colic and sleep deprivation horror stories with another bleary-eyed new mom. It's quite another thing to admit to another mom that your kid is skipping school, taking drugs, cutting herself -- or all of the above.)
And if your tween or teen happens to take the more scenic route through adolescence -- as opposed to sticking to the straight and narrow -- you can't help but feel like your mothering skills are on parade, too.
"The preteen and teen years are a time when moms really feel others judging their mothering skills," says Miriam Peskowitz, author of The Truth Behind the Mommy Wars: Who Decides What Makes a Good Mother? (Seal Press, 2005). "They feel pressure to have kids who are well-behaved, who do well in school, and who are well-rounded in sports and the arts. Moms also feel pressure to help kids prepare for college and careers. Education has become a mother's responsibility, and moms are judged accordingly."
Here are some tips on weathering the unique stresses of the preteen and teen mothering stage.
Realize that the mothering dance needs to evolve as your kids head into the preteen and teen years.
You will begin to rely more on your preteen and teen's own decision-making skills -- gently backed up by some guidance from you. "It's a matter of knowing how much rope to let out and when to yank it back in," Montreal mother-of-two Stephanie Whittaker explains. "It's a very finely calibrated dance."
Accept the fact that there will be times when you are as popular as last year's favourite outfit.
Some moms can find it difficult to cope with another noteworthy shift that occurs during the preteen and teen years -- the fact that friends suddenly move to the forefront and parents tend to get pushed to the side.
"Sometimes moms take it personally when their teens start spending all their time with friends," says Toronto parent and teen coach Dr. Karyn Gordon. "They need to remind themselves that this is a very natural transition."
Dare to open up to other mothers. As children get older, "women don't speak about the darkness of the problems on the 'bad mother days,'" says Andrea O'Reilly, founding president and director of the Association for Research on Mothering at York University.
Breaking the silence can help to ease the stress if you and your teen are going through a rockier-than-average time. Getting together for coffee with one other mom who knows what it's like to have a teenager who is really struggling can give you the mother fuel needed to get through. "And all it takes is one brave woman who is willing to stop censoring," says O'Reilly.
Ann Douglas is the author of The Mother of All Parenting Books. She can be contacted via her website at www.having-a-baby.com.