Many years ago, after my first child was born and I became fascinated with the whole birthing process, I became a certified childbirth educator. I loved helping couples overcome their anxiety about birth and making their journey to parenthood a little easier and more transparent.
I also fondly remember escaping my own home one night each week to teach, leaving our one- and three-year-old at home with my husband. I needed and cherished that mental break from the daily Mom grind.
One night, as I led my class through a slow-paced breathing exercise, it dawned on me that those deep, cleansing breaths were exactly what every parent of a toddler also needed to keep practicing!
And about a decade later, as my kids entered their teen years, I realized how many of those useful prepared childbirth tips still helped me cling to sanity. So, if it’s been awhile or you’ve forgotten these techniques, here are some reminders for parents about to enter – or in the trenches – of the teen years.
1 Movement Just as walking the halls of a hospital or rolling around on a yoga ball help a mom progress in her labor, taking a walk or heading out to an exercise class of any kind is the perfect answer for a teen yelling, “I hate you!” as they slam their bedroom door.
2 Focal Point When teens are whining about curfews, no phones at the dinner table, and the unfairness of life in general, it helps to have a real (or just a mental) picture of a peaceful spot you know you will get to someday. Hang a framed tropical beach scene in your bathroom, or just stash away some magazine pictures of a bucket-list travel destination. Gaze longingly at them as needed.
3 Active Muscle Relaxation Remember how a contraction in labor gripped your entire belly, but concentrating on relaxing other muscles helped you get through it? The stress of dealing with teens often leads parents to pain as well: headaches, stiff necks, and clenched jaws. Any kind of active muscle relaxation exercise can really help. DIY at home or find a great Pilates or yoga class.
4 Music I found it so helpful during labor, and honestly even more helpful during my kids’ teen years. When I was tired of their arguing, nothing got them out of the room as quickly as me blasting some 80’s tunes while I had my own little dance party. George Michael to the rescue.
5 A Coach or Doula No one should attempt labor, or parenting through the teen years, alone. A partner of some kind, whether a spouse, trusted friend or grandparent is a must. We all need backup when teens act out, shut down, or annoy us until we scream. There will come a time during every labor and teen parenting years where a Mom declares, “I can’t do this.” Your coach needs to be there to remind you that you are doing it, and you will get through it.
6 Pain Relief Some women have epidurals when giving birth; some do not. Some require C-sections and pain relief is a necessity. While I’m not advocating that the stress of parenting teenagers requires anesthesia, I am saying that there are days when a glass of wine, or a cup of gelato, or a few pieces of rich, dark chocolate just make things seem better. So does a massage, a pedicure, or buying yourself a new scarf. Find some sort of self-reward system that takes the edge off. You deserve it if your emotional pain has turned to suffering.
Birth is simply the first great stress of parenting and is wonderful preparation for making it through the often rough teen years. Just keep breathing…