They’re both testing boundaries. They’re both pushing their limits. They’re both discovering themselves outside of their parents’ identities. They’re both rapidly growing and developing. They both have extreme highs and lows, usually seconds apart. They’re both dreaded stages for a parent, despite the unwavering love.
They are toddlers and teenagers.
I am currently blessed with both a teenage daughter and a toddler daughter. Yes, blessed. Sure, they both throw me challenges, but, together, they have helped me understand each other.
One of the biggest parallels I have found is their utter lack of ability to communicate what is going on inside of them.
Toddlers are experiencing a full gamut of emotions with an extremely limited vocabulary with which to express said feelings. Similarly, teenagers have hormones to thank for introducing them to new and fiercer emotions, and despite the more extensive vocabulary, words do not always come easily in an attempt to sort it all out.
So what happens when toddlers’ and teenagers’ internal worlds—with all their ups and downs—collide with the lack of ability to verbalize what’s going on? Temper tantrums, meltdowns, attitudes, seclusion. Ever notice how these reactions tend to dissipate the better your toddlers and teenagers get at sorting things out and communicating?
With that in mind, when my toddler is kicking and screaming on the floor, I do my best to remind myself how frustrating it must be not to be able to logically discuss the danger of touching that stove and how Mama loves her and doesn’t want her to be hurt. How in that moment, all she can think is Mama is keeping me from this fun, new thing, and I feel this uncomfortable feeling inside, so I will scream.
Well, that uncomfortable feeling is called anger, and it’s OK. We can work through that.
Or when my teenager is throwing around attitude, and I try to ask her how she is doing despite my really just wanting to scold her. I try to remember what it’s like to have a changing body and a growing mind and feel like every little thing is huge. And how she truly isn’t being difficult when she gives me a short response. She may just not have the words to describe the uncomfortable feelings she may be having.
So I may not be able to have a healing, conclusive conversation with either my toddler or my teenager. But I can be there.
I can be their steady rock that doesn’t go away when everything is physically, mentally, and socially changing for them.
Toddlers and teenagers may be on opposite ends of the childhood spectrum, but the stages are parallel—and don’t forget they’re human too, and like all of us, they’re works in progress.
Originally published on the author’s blog