The Lonely Act of Parenting

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 recent 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.”

Groups for parents with newborns and toddlers are common, but groups for parents with teens are seemingly sparse. Without a formal environment in which parents of teens can find support among their peers, a culture of avoidance can form. However, avoiding conversations with fellow parents of teens can contribute to a feeling of loneliness. Valeii notes, “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.”

Communicating with other parents is an opportunity for you to form connections with others who may be going through something similar with their own teens, to discover potential solutions, and to open the door for future dialogue. 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’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 camaraderie 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. It’s important to support each other.

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