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Raising a teenager?

Sarah Woods Kelly
Post Independent
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

One thing I have learned from my work at YouthZone is that nothing can ever prepare you for raising a teenager. After doing Youth and Family Assessments with families in conflict, I find myself wondering, “Can I make it through those years with my own teenager”? Although the goal my entire life has been to have a family, I certainly have begun to question the sanity of this goal. Life is good right now. I’m 33, I have a loving husband, a job, a home, and we can basically do whatever we want. I sleep in on the weekends and wake up thinking about my friends who have been up for hours with their kids and are probably ready for a nap. I soak this time in, stretch and stumble down the stairs to my coffee. It won’t be too long before our sleepless nights begin.

My husband and I have been discussing what it’s going to take to raise the family we want. The main theme that keeps coming up is – lead by example. This is what I see the families at YouthZone doing successfully time and again. And it is these families that ease my worries and allow me to think that raising a teenager may be achievable. They embrace conflict, follow their moral compass, do the work, and just hope that their teen will soak some of this in. They usually do. That isn’t to say parents aren’t terrified while they’re in the thick of the process. But something inside them carries them through.

One family came to YouthZone for Youth Coaching, one of our programs designed to support kids. They were concerned about their daughter, her choice of friends, her attitude and her lack of respect for authority. I took her to observe adult drug court and wondered if she’d be respectful to the participants and the judge. Even for a teen that is not struggling with authority, talking to a judge can be intimidating. At the end of court she stood up to tell the judge what she had learned. The way she presented herself with poise and respect was admirable to even an adult. Her mother called me afterward worried asking, “Was she polite, did she get kicked out of court?” I told her that although her daughter was acting out and disrespectful at home, she still had everything her parents had modeled and taught her inside. I told her she should be proud. This small bit of information gave her a boost when things seemed to be hopeless. She now had faith that while there were still struggles, all that she had hoped to instill in her daughter was there and would hopefully carry them through times to come.



Stories like these help me imagine raising a child and I even continue to plan for one. As long as I am on the same page as my husband and we lead our children by example, I have faith that we’ll be OK. But, for now I am going to sleep in and sip my coffee in peace.

Sarah Woods Kelly is a YouthZone case manager


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