The Lonely Act of Parenting

This post was updated in January of 2023.

As the parent of a teenager, you’ve likely experienced some difficult moments. You are probably aware of the fact that you are not the first parent to deal with a messy room, failed class, or troubling friends. But that doesn’t necessarily make it easier to talk about these issues with other parents. A Washington Post article by writer and mother, Kathi Valeii, reflects on the challenge in finding spaces to speak freely about parenting a teenager and how fear of judgement and feelings of shame often come into play. “That’s the funny thing about the lack of communication among parents,” Valeii observes, “The silence and judgment — perceived or otherwise — are effective deterrents and they feed on one another.”

The ongoing pandemic shifted this ominous feeling of silent judgement among parents. Despite families having to isolate from one another, many parents experienced similar challenges and increased levels of depression, anxiety, and burnout. We all know the saying “misery loves company,” so it makes sense that the comradery of shared discomfort brought communities closer together. Although parents weren’t able to meet for coffee and vent their worries away, many found solace in knowing that other parents were experiencing the same uncomfortable emotions. “Embrace the suck” is a phrase that wasn’t conceived during the pandemic, but it quickly became a motto of the COVID-19 chaos. Parents learned how to “embrace the suck” together.

In fact, the pandemic kickstarted a new fleet of online support groups for parents. Newborn and parenting groups have been common for a while, but groups for parents with teens were seemingly sparse prior to the pandemic. Now that more of these parental support groups exist, it may be in your best interest, and in the best interest of your teen, to join one (or a couple). If you notice an absence of support groups for parents of teens within your community, consider starting your own, formally or informally, which may feel more comfortable.

Valeii doesn’t want anyone else to suffer in silence like she did. “As I think about my own challenges parenting a teenager, and my accompanying silence, I feel complicit in a way for not being more open about all of it. My fear of being a parenting failure is an ominous shadow, and I can’t fathom enduring the criticism of another parent while I am so raw and tired. But I don’t want someone else to suffer for my silence,” she explained.

Valeii’s story is a prime example of why having an outlet and source of support is vital for parents of children of all ages. She has started an important dialogue but it’s important to keep the conversation going. There’s no denying that parenting can feel lonely, but as Valeii notes, it doesn’t have to be.

Find inspiration from Valeii’s notes to herself as you reflect on your own teenage parenting challenges:

  • Remember that tomorrow is a new day – you can go into it stronger and more prepared.
  • Think about ways to talk about your parenting moments – the good and the ugly – with other parents who may be going through the same thing.
  • Don’t let other parents suffer from your silence. The thought of speaking with other parents may feel daunting, but it will likely bring to light that others are having very similar experiences.

Speaking openly with another parent or finding a parent group can provide comradery and support, so it’s well worth the effort. Chances are, other parents of teens are also looking for their own outlet to dispel the feeling of loneliness and would likely be grateful if someone else made the first move in drumming up community involvement. It’s important to support each other always, but especially when life gets challenging.

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