Written by Claire Handrick


Living with a teenage stranger

Claire Handrick has misjudged the challenges of being the mother of a teenager and has decided to chronicle the joys, frustrations, hair-pulling moments and deep-rooted fears she’s experiencing. This week it’s all about the fear(s).

All illustrations by Harriet Carmichael.

Illustration by Harriet Carmichael.

Much of my parenting a teen is about fear – fear for her.

She has changed so much over the last 18 months, where she went from a slightly grumpy teen to a withdrawn young woman who feels trapped by school, the decisions she has made and the journey she still has to make.

She becomes energised when we talk about life after school, of the next steps of college. But I think she questions whether she will get it right, whether she is capable of making the right decisions because she has not yet reached a point of learning from her experiences and learning that mistakes are part of life.

I fear she is struggling, that she sees no hope or future, I fear she is experiencing depression and I fear that she will hurt herself. There are already some issues with her eating and her mood – she knows we are here but the toughie is knowing that she has to work a lot of this out for herself.

My fear makes me feel angry. I want to scream and shout, to tell her to snap out of it, to get a grip and see all that she has to enjoy. I don’t of course, but I do also grow tired of the grunts and the reluctance to engage in conversation.

I see it as my job to persevere, to somehow engage and to draw her out. Sometimes it works and sometimes it backfires.

Sometimes I could cry, sometimes I do, because I just want my little girl back – from a time when the world was enjoyed and explored. Now the world just seems to bore her or scare her. She’s angry and moody and I’m trying to balance helping her with stepping back.

As I have said before, I feel as lost now as when she was first born. I am trying to trust my instincts and I feel like I am winging it like never before.

“My fear makes me feel angry – I want to scream and shout, to tell her to snap out of it, to get a grip and see all that she has to enjoy.”

She is funny, clever, thoughtful and kind; she can be a sensitive soul who hurts easily and lashes out to protect herself. The thought of her being in pain and struggling to make sense of the world breaks my heart, however normal it may be.

I passionately believe in communication, at home and at work. I encourage my children to talk, and let them know it is OK to talk about the great as well as the not so great and the incredibly difficult.

I juggle work and family but I am almost always available for them whether they want to chat, discuss, ask questions, do homework or just have a cuddle. I am and I have been trying my very best. Another big fear is: what if my best isn’t good enough for her?

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Written by Claire Handrick

Mother, ponderer and cake eater.