Upside Down on the Zip, Zip Zipper: Staying Sane While Raising Teenagers

How are you dealing with the wild and unpredictable changes during your child's teen years?

by Shelley Richanbach, Certified Addictions Specialist and Peer Facilitator, Founder of Next Steps for Women 

When your teen is missing curfew, talking back, or completely ignoring you, it’s enough to make you want to throw up your arms and call it quits. If you suspect tobacco, alcohol or drug abuse it only adds more anxiety, dread or despair to the “I can’t cope with this anymore feeling”.

It’s a rare parent who can deal with the wild and unpredictable changes at this stage of life. When I was raising my three adolescents, I remember feeling like I was on an emotional roller coaster. 

If you have more than one in the house, it can be compared to enduring a ride on the Kingda Ka. Your tweens, teens and young adults can have you up, down, and sideways in seconds.

And, if a partner isn’t buckled in alongside for whatever reason (you’re a single parent or just on completely different tracks about how to handle the gravitational force of this developmental age), it’s as if you’re in a single car on the Wild Mouse without any built-in safety systems. 

Parenting teens is not for the squeamish.

For you and your family’s well being you’ve got to keep all your wheels on the tracks.

So how do you hold a constant velocity throughout this harrowing time? 

Here are five key wellness concepts that will help you jump off Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride and settle in to a seat on the Little Dipper.

First, hold onto HOPE. Just as you can count on the daffodils to pop out in February and the sun to rise every morning, you can take faith that your young people will mature. It’s now proven to take until their mid-twenties but, so what? Chances are they will leave the nest. They want out as much as you’re ready for them to be out.

But if your wheels are about to fly off, allow another family member or good friend to hold hope for you while you find support in the way of a counselor or coach, your church community, a wellness center, 12-step group, (i.e.: Al-Anon) or at a local Community Recovery Organization (RCO). 

Second, take PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY for your parenting. Look at what you’re doing and how you’re doing it. Ask: what is my part in the issue at hand? How am I acting or am I reacting? Acknowledge your part in the situation du jour. Become aware and try to build “response ability.” It’s okay to give your self a “time out” to assess what’s really going on. 

The third key is EDUCATION. Find out as much as you can about the challenges your kids are facing. Get more information about their teachers, friends, their friends’ parents, parties, hangouts, technology, and up-to-date info about alcohol, street and prescription drugs. 

Who knew there would be a party drug called Bath Salts? “Hey Mom, I’m off to Walgreens for some bath salts…see ya later.”

Find out what other parents are doing.  Align with those who hold similar values. Make time for the Parent Teacher Associations/Organizations’ educational forums. Enroll in parenting your adolescent classes.  

It can feel overwhelming but don’t make the same mistake I made by shrugging and hoping everything will be fine; I trusted the schools, other parents and that my kids were smart—that they’d figure it out. I was wrong. Believe me, we’re on a new fangled roller coaster in a whole new class of amusement park.  

Fourth--SELF ADVOCATE. Are you staying on top of your physical, emotional and mental wellbeing? To be feeling your best, you must take what you need in the way of healthy food, a good night’s rest and exercise along with using stress-reducing tools (meditation, yoga, journaling, a walk in nature) and have hobbies and creative outlets. These are your wellness tools. Do you need to take a parenting class and your partner says you don’t need it? You know best. Advocate for your self.

Get SUPPORT. This is probably the most important key to your wellness. Why oh why do we imagine that we don’t need help? What’s wrong with surrendering? It’s okay to lean into a community and connect with others who are also on the Wild Ride. Find out how much we are the same and not so different at all. Finding out that you’re not alone can be a huge relief. 

When you feel like you’ve had enough of the tight turns and steep slopes, (exhausted, talked out, and stressed out) check to see which of the 5 key concepts to your wellness needs assessing. 

Tell us about one of the key concepts that is currently working in your life this week.


Shelley Richanbach is one of three Bay Area moms writing Parent to Parent ~ a blog sharing concerns about substance abuse. Lisa Frederiksen, Author Speaker Consultant and Founder of BreakingTheCycles.com and Shelley Richanbach, Certified Addictions Specialist, Peer Facilitator and Founder of Next Steps for Women, round out the Parent to Parent team. Check back every Wednesday as one of these moms will share their expertise and personal experiences with substance use, abuse, addiction and recovery. And if you find yourself in any one of their stories, consider attending their March 3, 2013, Substance Abuse Workshop for Parents.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Katherine February 10, 2013 at 12:48 AM
Hi, I never knew parents wanted teens out as much as they want out. I couldn't imagine my parents thinking the same. It's more likely that they never want out and always in with, "Hey mom, got some $$$?" College would be a sincere bet. What do you do when you feel tabacco is involved or other things? Do you mean Epson Salt? What is that supposed to mean? Maybe raising teens can change with generation, but it's best to stick to the old ways, I think.
Shelley Richanbach February 13, 2013 at 07:50 PM
Thank you for your comments and questions, Katherine. What I feel most concerned about in this reply is clarifying my comment about purchasing "bath salts". Synthetic Cathinones, “bath salts” are a designer party drug that comes from a dangerous family of drugs containing one or more synthetic chemicals related to cathinone, an amphetamine-like stimulant found naturally in the Khat plant. It’s sold under such names as Ivory Wave, Red Dove, Bliss and Vanilla Sky or referred to simply as “plant food.” All of these names are used to skirt regulatory control and are not something that one would want to put in their body. They are not pleasantly-scented bubble bath nor are they Epsom salts--neither of these have any drug-like properties. In this last decade, our young people have ever more choices of illicit drugs. Many of the newer designer drugs are sold under the guise of being “natural” and are considered “legal highs” because they can be purchased at the local smoke shop or via the internet. While used to feel joy, sociability and increased sex drive, Synthetic Cathinones’ amphetamine like reactions include hallucinations, paranoia, rapid and irregular heartbeats and suicidal thoughts. For current information about this and other popular street drugs (“Spice” and “Salvia”) I recommend the link teens (dot) drugabuse (dot) gov/facts. This site has useful info for both teens and parents.
Katherine February 13, 2013 at 09:09 PM
Wow, thank you! My question is if a parent knows all of this, why would they let their teen walk around the house and say, "I'm going to go buy some bath salts?" That's the way they try and trick parents? My though is, this is a lead to diagnosing the problem people now have over gun control and how these young teens behave, how teachers are supposed to recognize problems at an early age to prevent shootings like the one at Sandyhook elementary, how teens can pick up bad vibes from their parents at an early age of feeling not wanted and to leave by 18 - what causes this mental scar that makes them want to do things to their elementary school, or people just enjoying a movie, or students going to class at college? This is something caused by Americans that needs to start ending by changing the new generation so kids can know right from wrong, starting with their parents. I would start by no cash and no violent video games, and parents keep your adult life seperate from your kids - they're not adults!
Herby Bell February 19, 2013 at 08:37 PM
Shelley, We're all on the Wild Ride and you are one wise lady. Thank you for giving voice and language to what's right about what's wrong and how it takes a community. Very clear and very helpful. Herby Bell
Shelley Richanbach February 20, 2013 at 04:19 AM
Your response is most welcome and much appreciated, Herby.


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