Parenting is a lot of wonderful things, but it also can be mind-numbingly difficult. For some, the challenges become even more intense when those early years-during which it's fairly easy to rally the troops with Barney tunes, wacky dancing and Happy Meals-give way to the sometimes-perplexing tweens and teens, when things suddenly pick up speed and parenting feels like a breathless sprint to catch a runaway train. The bickering increases, activities and agendas pull family members in different directions, and someone (usually mom or dad) gets stuck with the lion's share of the laundry-and an ulcer.
This confluence of circumstances reminds me of how every now and then, someone somewhere pitches a tent for herself in her front yard and makes headlines by announcing she's on strike. She's sick of the whining, is fed up with their refusal to help out and has decided she's "not going to take it anymore." Sound familiar? It's too chilly to pitch a tent, by golly, and running away will just makes matters worse, so try a new game plan.
Pick one hour-on Saturday mornings, for example-when you'll team up, pick chores out of a hat, turn up the volume and get 'em done. Your crew may prefer grooving to Lady Gaga over Barney these days, but the good-vibes effect will be the same. A bonus? You'll communicate a "we're in this together" message, an expectation that will be reinforced every week.
Have some non-chore-related fun together, too.
It's natural and healthy for your children to crave more time with their friends these days, but fun family time needn't completely evaporate. Think you have nothing in common with your kids anymore? Notice those things you do share an interest in, no matter how small, and build on them. Is there a television show everyone likes? Set the DVR to record it, find a consistent time when you will all be home every week and pop the popcorn. It may surprise you how very little time it takes to reconnect.
Your children's social lives may be blossoming, but don't forget to "get a life" of your own, too. Make sure you regularly schedule kid-free time when you can unwind and recharge in the company of your own BFFs.
Parenting really isn't for sissies. You'll need to bank some belly laughs-and helpful hints from other parents in the trenches-if you're going to keep your head above water during your offsprings' adolescence.
Through it all, you'll be able to keep your family's growing pains in perspective if you accept that a major mission of childhood is growing up and gaining as much independence (from you, dear mom and dad) as possible.
Your child may not allow you to hold his hand in public any longer, but you can bet that he'll appreciate a warm one on his shoulder from time to time.
Got a concern? If you're a parent and it's on your mind, chances are you're not alone. Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org
Jennifer DuBose, M.S., C.A.S., is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in Batavia.
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