Mom's stress guide: teens and tweens

Breaking the silence about what mothering teens is really like

By Ann Douglas

Your changing teen

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."

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