We all love a peek into other people’s parenting. It can be much harder to find relatable stories when you have teens, though. We get that teens aren’t always quite so overjoyed to see their lives shared online, but there’s so much that’s positive, funny and wonderful about parenting teens. Our ‘parenting my teens’ Q&A series is designed to help fill the gap and inspire parents of teens everywhere.
A massive thank you to Betsy for sharing her ‘parenting my teens’ story.
Tell us a little bit about you and your teen/s:
So, I just have the one 15 year old boy. Both he and my husband have ADHD and my son also has dyslexia. Home school was hard! We live in Cheltenham and all have a mild obsession with Christmas and Star Wars.
Describe your parenting style in three words:
Love, fun and respect
Now ask your teen/s to describe your parenting style in three words!
Kind, caring, harsh sometimes
How is parenting your teen/s now compared to when they were toddlers?
In one way it’s much easier. He is self-sufficient these days and in theory could make his own lunch (although his default lunch is the snack cupboard) but his problems are more like adult real world problems. He lays awake some nights thinking how unfair the world is. Or he already worries about what kind of career he’ll have. When he was a toddler he was much higher in energy consumption but life was a little simpler.
What is your biggest parenting fail? Make us all feel better!
Well, there are a few on a theme of “let him try”, one of which may have led to a broken nose when the try ended in a fail (a solid rubber swing hit him smack between the eyes). But I think my biggest fail was believing that our underfunded education system had his back and trusting the school, despite seeing the emotional fallout at home.
And what are you most proud of as a parent?
He is 15 and isn’t afraid to say “I love you”.
What has surprised you most about your teen/s?
That he’s not even remotely interested in alcohol or weed. He definitely doesn’t take after either of us in that!
What’s your best trick to starting a conversation with your teen/s?
I say “I saw this thing on TikTok…” and we go from there. Or, a couple of years ago I’d ask, “which of your teachers would survive a zombie attack?”.
What do your teen/s say you do that embarrasses them most?
Randomly bursting into song any time a word comes up that has a lyric cue for me. So anytime he talked about titanium in Minecraft I’d start singing Sia. If it’s in public he walks away very fast!
And what do they think you say that either annoys them or encourages them the most – your choice!
Annoys – “Keep it down, we’re going to bed.”
How do you approach the hard conversations – sex, porn, drugs and social media?
Sex chat – it’s never not been a topic. We’ve always called a penis a penis and a vulva a vulva. We’ve always said no question is off topic. Anything that gets brought up is chatted about so I think it makes it easier for us to bring up topics too, because the expectation is set that we talk. We’ve talked about porn when he was 9 and started getting the school bus with older kids and what he might see or get shown on other people’s phones. We’ve talked about consent. Just today we talked about the conflict between LGBT communities and private schools in Florida looking to exclude them on grounds of religious freedom. We also talk about sex being for pleasure and not just reproduction!
Social media is an ongoing battle. I struggle with some of the things he brings to the table as “truth”, as it’s not my truth and I have to work out how to engage with him on that but still in a respectful way. I do now ask him if I can share images of him on my socials which I didn’t do 5 years ago.
What/who has been the biggest influence on your parenting style?
My mum was a big influence in my parenting style. Both how to love but also how not to have conversations. Her idea of the sex talk was to give me a book and say “don’t just look at the pictures” which, of course, is exactly what I did.
And weirdly, the programme This Is Us – the parents didn’t automatically know everything. They failed. But they tried again. They missed things. It normalised normal parenting for me.
Where do you think your teens will be in 10 years’ time?
I have no idea where my teen will be in ten years time. When we had him, my husband and I had these ideals. Hopes and dreams I suppose. We wanted life to be easier for him. More opportunities and options. It quickly became apparent that he wasn’t very academic or traditionally sporty (though he’ll outclimb anyone!) and he would have it harder than we had it and all under the spotlight of social media to boot. I adjusted reasonably quickly, my husband not so much but he’s there now.
So now we have no milestones he needs to reach or goals we have set for him. We concentrate on being the best advocates we can be for his needs, love him unconditionally, and are there to help him navigate his own path. In 10 years time I just want to see the smile on his face for the life he has created.
Given what you know now, what would you do differently? Get a dog instead?!
I was so concerned about being the reasonable mum, the undemanding mum, and the understanding mum to schools that I didn’t advocate hard enough for him early on. Maybe I actually should have thrown my toys out the pram once or twice…
Thank you so much, Betsy, for such honest and inspiring answers.
Betsy is a designer maker and runs Betsy Benn from a studio in Cheltenham. Betsy sells a wonderful range of personalised gifts – we just love her use of typography and colour. Everything is sustainably made and absolutely joyful. Follow her on Instagram to find out more.
If you’d like to read the earlier blogs from this series, you’ll find them all in the Parenting Teens section of our blog.
Louise & Anna x
A little bit about Equipp
We’re Louise & Anna, mum to 5 teens and young adults. We set up Equipp to help spread happiness and positivity amongst today’s amazing young people. We believe it’s vital that every teenager is given confidence to believe in themselves. Telling them how wonderful they are and putting a daily smile on their faces via the cards and gifts they receive from Equipp is integral to everything we design and produce. Have a browse around our collections of birthday and teenage milestone gifts and please do get in touch if you have any questions or would like any recommendation.
We love to celebrate teenagers in every way, and are building a community of parents who feel the same. We hope you enjoy reading our blog posts and we’d love it if you came and joined us on Instagram or Facebook to chat about parenting teens.
Oh, and we’re raising money for a fantastic teenage suicide prevention charity, Hector’s House, with a donation from every purchase from Equipp.