It’s Not Personal

It can seem impossible not to take personally when your teenager yells at you, points out your faults, does what you thought they knew not to do, and blames you for everything wrong in the world.

But learning to not take what they say and do personally may be the best gift you give to yourself. It will also help your relationship with your teen.

As children, we take everything personally because we have to – we’re vulnerable and our very survival feels at stake. What we don’t know is that everyone else thinks the same thing: it’s all about them and therefore cannot be about us.

When our kids become teenagers, that survival instinct is joined with the need to grow and learn and become independent, so they must separate, they must learn where the boundaries are, they must search for meaning and purpose and value.

They say mean things and make dumb mistakes because they are in a huge growth and learning mode and because their brain hasn’t fully connected and yet they feel like they’re pretty smart compared to how they used to be.

All of this can feel so personal to a mom. It’s so hard to transition from meaning the world to someone to being viewed as the enemy seemingly overnight.

But when you take things personally, you are giving meaning to events or actions that are not about you.

For example, if your child decides to start smoking (whether you smoke or not), does that have anything to do with you if their reason to smoke is to piss you off or to rebel against you? Nope.

Does it have anything to do with the way your raised them, the times you failed them, or all the things you didn’t do right, like they might want you to think? Nope again.

It’s about them. It has to do with their need to piss you off or rebel against you, to fit in, to self-medicate their anxiousness, to feel independent, to experiment, or whatever their need is.

When you take it personally — when you feel hurt or judged, it can heighten the emotions in conflicts.

It can block you from being able to communicate about what it means to THEM. It can stop you from truly understanding what’s driving them.

When your teen comes at you or acts out, find time to look at it as if you are someone outside of the situation. Is it really about you?

By the Skin of Our Teeth

Five years ago today, we flew to New Hampshire (by way of Boston) for our son’s high school graduation.

We really had no idea — right up until the last minute — if it would ever happen.

Not after he basically refused to go to school his freshman year.

Or after the months that he was on Home and Hospital by order of the high school he was attending.

Or after the many more months (years, actually) he was in Utah at a residential therapeutic school, and then an alternative boarding school in New Hampshire for his senior year.

He was sent home just a month before the end of the year. Here we thought we had made it — after years of the mantra “just get him through high school, just get him through high school” — and then, bam, it was in danger of not happening.

Thankfully, the school allowed him to finish his course work at home. Thankfully, he did it. Thankfully, we were able to take him to graduate with his class.

It was touch and go for years. But I’m grateful we hung in there. I’m grateful for the lessons I learned. I’m grateful that he’s doing as great as he is, and that we have a close relationship again.

Those years were tough, the hardest of my life. If you’re going through them now, I’m here to support you. Download a copy of my book (at or give me a call and let me know what’s going on with you.

These difficult years won’t last forever, even if it seems like they will never end. You’ll be okay, mama.

Teaching Sons to Identify and Share Emotions

Moms, teaching your sons that they are permitted to feel their feelings is so crucial for their future happiness. This article from Harpers Bazaar, Men Have No Friends and Women Bear the Burden, unpacks so much about what goes wrong when our sons learn that having feelings is not masculine.

  • They rely on their partners for emotional support, intimacy and even therapy. It can lead to burnout for their SO and end the relationship.
  • Men don’t seek out therapy when they need it. “Only five percent of men seek outpatient mental health services, despite feeling lonelier than ever before (in a recent British study, 2.5 million men admitted to having no close friends). What’s more, men conceal pain and illness at much higher rates than women, and are three times more likely than women to die from suicide. “
  • Shame for showing signs of weakness is the biggest cause of toxic masculinity, according to Brene Brown.

It’s not just men who buy into the idea that feelings are for sissies.  You’ve heard the moms that say things like “Football players don’t cry.” Perhaps you’ve said similar things (I certainly did), sometimes because of the cultural norms and sometimes out of your own desire to end the drama (dealing with children’s emotions can get tiring).

But if you want to give your son the best preparation for life, for having successful relationships, for feeling happy and secure, give them the gift of knowing that their very human emotions are okay. Help them learn how to deal with them both inside and outside the home. You’ll also be doing a great service to their future partners — indeed, the entire world.