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In honor of a new school year, here are things I’ve learned while parenting teens:

Do not wear dry cleaning to sporting events.

Teen girls get a bad rap. They are ravenous. Prepare your pantry accordingly.

RELATED: I Talk to Your Teens All Day: Here’s What You Can Do Better

Pregame rituals include music that is trash. Learn to enjoy it.

Teens need mental health days, too.

Let them sleep. Let them eat. Let them play.

Grades are indicators—a means to an end and not an end unto themselves. Do. Not. Die. on this hill, friends.

Be a safe space for your teen, no matter what, and save the sermon for another day. Safety is what counts.

RELATED: When Teens Are Hard to Love, You Love Them Harder

Closet and drawer space is irrelevant. Every item of clothes serves a purpose, and that purpose is to cover every square inch of the floor in their room.

Talk about all the hard things (sex, gender, race, identity, birth control, STDs, consent, depression, anxiety, suicide, suicidal ideation, eating disorders, vaping, alcohol, drugs, nudes, [email protected], assault, bullying, social media, overdoses, religion, politics, pills, guns, and influencers) because someone already is.

And oh-by-the-way, they’re in your teens’ heads and on their screens 24/7.

Shoes on the kitchen counter, wet towels on the floor, and workout clothes left to ripen in various bags simply come with the territory. Get over it and buy more bleach.

Chocolate milk still fixes a lot of things.

Cereal is not a breakfast food. It is an after-school, after-dinner, and before-bed food group all by itself.

Do not freak out. Just don’t. Escalating rarely helps open hearts or heal wounds. Sleep on it, just like you’ve been told before.

Teens need privacy. Teens need you in their business. Yeah, the math doesn’t always work on this one, but somehow you MUST get this right.

Teens are highly capable, talented, and intuitive.

Be honest with them and yourself, because they’re watching and listening and learning to draw their own conclusions beneath all that hair.

Teens crave connection. Be vulnerable. Be bold. Be brave. Be human. And try to be consistent.

RELATED: Sometimes Good Teens Just Make Bad Decisions

Words matter. A lot. Speak the truth in love and forgive like you mean it. Say good morning, good night and I love you every chance you get, over and over and over, even if all you get in return is the side eye.

Teach teens to self-advocate. Period.

Teens wear inexplicably baggy and shabby things, which makes no sense in the order of the universe, because yes, you wore pants JUST LIKE THAT when you were in school three decades ago.

Give and receive grace. Rinse and repeat. Your teen has never been a teen before, and you have never parented this teen before, either.

RELATED: Dear Teens, You’ll Make Mistakes—But What Will Your Recovery Be?

The teen years are beautiful, savage, hilarious, irreverent, and temporary.

Soak it all in.

Soak. It. All. In.

Because your teen who amazes and inspires and twists up your insides needs you.

Teens really are the best, and fuzzy blankets are a love language. Wrap up and be present.

Be present. Be a team. And breathe.

Breathe.

Originally published on the author’s Facebook page

Whitney Westbrook

Whitney Westbrook writes about navigating midlife, mostly with grace. Because midlife is relentless and irreverent, and because we should all talk about it out loud more. Follow her for more misadventures and insights on all things midlife at So Very Whitney

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