The Art of Talking to a Teenager: Make Time to Listen


I became the proud mother of a teenager when my oldest turned 13 last March. My little girl has grown into a beautiful, strong young woman in the blink of an eye. She’s got a voice she’s willing to share with the world, and there is not a shy bone in her body. She has strong opinions, loves TikTok, eye makeup, and drawing characters for her stories. There’s a lot of hiding in her room, too. I think she’s building her personal zoo in there, but so far the only animals are a gecko and a fish. She’s often giggling, singing, or dancing.

And I’m really proud of the woman she’s growing up to be.

Teenagers of every ethnicity go through a time where they are discovering who they are, apart from their parents. It’s just the natural process of separation that every child needs to go through, so they can be healthy adults. They like different kinds of music, want to dress a certain way, and usually don’t want to spend too much time with their parents.

Parenting a Teenager

We’re suddenly too old for our teenagers, it seems. Far gone is the blind trust they bestowed on us when they were little. Now every statement is carefully analyzed and deconstructed. And although it is normal, it can come across a bit hurtful at times. I always try to remember that all this is to be expected, and to show her every day how much I love her, even on the days she doesn’t seem to return that love.

My teen is very mature for her age, she always has been. We used to joke that she had an old soul. Sometimes I forget she’s only 13, barely a teenager; then she grumbles about doing her chores and I remember.

She still does play with her little sisters, when she thinks no one is paying attention. Her sisters love her so much and look up to her, and she knows it. They go from being friends to not liking each other, then back to friends in a very short amount of time. I didn’t grow up with sisters in my house, so it took awhile for me to get used to all the squabbling! Over time I have learned to let them work things out themselves. They usually find a better solution than anything I would have come up with.

Staying Connected

Yesterday I realized that I had not spent much one-on-one time with her in the last two weeks. I’ve noticed that she is a completely different person when we are alone, so these times together are a priority for me. I let her lead the conversations, we listen to her music, and I get to hear all of her stories.

These times, when we are alone in the car, are my favorite. We talk about anything and everything. She usually asks about what I did when I was her age, what music I liked to listen to, or the food I enjoyed.

Sometimes we walk together in the park, each of us with a coffee or tea. Other times we drive around aimlessly through town. We’ve even sat in the car, parked near the river dam, and watched music videos for hours. It’s always fun, no matter what we do.

This is the time when we dream, and plan, and talk and when she truly opens up. I’m no longer mom, the chore coordinator. I’m mom, the adult she likes to spend time with, if only for a little while. I know that in the future, when she’s an adult with her own life and family, I’ll miss these simple times. We’ve agreed that we need to do it more often, and I plan on keeping my word.

Growing Up and Letting Go

It’s crazy how fast time goes. It seems like yesterday that I was a scared girl being told I needed an emergency C-section. For the first three days of my teenagers life, I was so terrified of dropping my baby that I refused to hold her unless I was sitting down.

My teenager and her sisters have made me a mother, and a better person. And I consider it a privilege to help them better themselves; to guide them into adulthood in the years ahead.

And sometimes I feel nostalgic and get a bit sad about them not being babies or needing me as much, but I wouldn’t trade seeing them grow up as strong, opinionated young women for all the money in the world.

And I’m looking forward to seeing the wonderful women they become.

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Julia was born and raised in the Dominican Republic and moved to North Dakota in December of 2007. She has been a North Fargo resident since 2015. Julia is a mother to Lara, Emma, and Tania. She is bilingual, with Spanish as her first language. Julia and her family love this community and she loves the opportunity to raise her girls here.


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