We’re super fans of Hannah Carpenter and feel like we hit the jackpot being able to connect with her to get these fun and quirky shots featuring her son Tom with our brand new Suds Stick. Not only is Hannah a creative genius—she’s an incredible mom of 4 who brings joy, honesty and some great laughs in her corner of the internet. Read on to tap into some sage advice on mama life with tweens & teens…(*saves page for future reference.)
"Model it for them. Allow messes. Entertain different ideas. Appreciate music and art, listen to it, look at it, make it, talk about it, dance, try new things, make mistakes then try something else. Don’t be afraid of criticism. Put yourself out there. Be different and celebrate those differences. Take risks."
Q: As a mama of tweens & teens how do you approach conversations about helping them accept and embrace their changing bodies (hopefully with minimal eye rolls ;))
A: My approach so far has been to just have conversations–we talk A LOT in our family–maybe too much. I didn’t grow up talking openly about puberty or sex, so it’s not something that naturally felt comfortable to discuss, but you just gotta act like it is comfortable and totally normal and talk, talk, talk. This stuff has happened to every human that’s ever walked the earth. It’s about time we normalize talking about it. If we’re uncomfortable they most certainly will be. It’s also worth mentioning, no matter how open and vulnerable you are, you may have a child who is by nature reserved and private. They don’t HAVE to share with you, but I think giving them the choice, the opportunity to is what matters. If he/she doesn’t share with you the way you’ve tried to share with them, it doesn’t mean you’ve not shared enough. It’s a personality trait and sometimes just can’t be overridden. I’ve had to learn this the hard way. But if you share openly and candidly, that foundation of transparency will be there if and when they get to a point where they wish to share.
Q: Your fam is so creative! How have you created space in your home & life to foster and encourage that side of your kiddos?
A: Model it for them. Allow messes. Entertain different ideas. Appreciate music and art, listen to it, look at it, make it, talk about it, dance, try new things, make mistakes then try something else. Don’t be afraid of criticism. Put yourself out there. Be different and celebrate those differences. Take risks.
All that being said, providing an environment conducive to creativity doesn’t insure your kids will be artists or musicians. To a large extent, genetics decide that for us. But again, it’s about giving our kids the choice, the opportunity to discover that within themselves. They just might grow up to be accountants, which, some might argue, are very creative–creating spreadsheets and structure is an important part of our world. Whether they’re artists or accountants, if they have a rich imagination, they’ll be able to use their profession in ways other people can’t.
Q: TikTok and Instagram are a part of our kids' lives but can be tricky to navigate, how do you approach screen time / social media boundaries?
A: I mean, is there a secret to doing this right? If so, I don’t have it. It’s all a giant experiment we are participating in whether we like it or not. Our kids are the first generation to be completely raised in a screen-centric world. And we’re supposed to pretend we know what we’re doing. Well, I’m not pretending. I don’t know what I’m doing. We allow screens. And we’re much more lenient with our youngest than we were with our older kids. We kind of let the Covid 2019 lockdown push us around. Tom, our then 7 year old, began playing video games with friends–his only way to engage with friends at the time, so we allowed it. But we’re still allowing it, and I hate it. My grandmother used to say, “Start out like you can keep up.” Sounds confusing, but I think it means it’s hard to go backwards, and she was right.
With the older kids we ask they bring their phones downstairs before bed. Our rule used to be phones were only ever downstairs, but they’ve worn us down. That’s a rule I’d like to try and reinstate. Wish us luck! The whole “start out like you can keep up” thing is real.
Also, I just want to say, I enjoy the Instagrams and TikToks, so who can really blame our kids. Social media can actually foster a lot of creativity. But it can definitely be the very worst. We talk a lot about social media posting best practices– about how what you post and like can be seen by the mom of the girl or boy you’re into. Who hasn’t done a deep dive on the spam account of the kids your kids like? I have and will and do not apologize for it.
I guess it’s about teaching and learning self-control. That’s at the heart of every potentially addictive/destructive issue we face as parents and humans at large.
Q: Every mama just wants her kids to understand how magical they are and to be confident in themselves! Any tips on helping them feel that sense of self-love, especially in the teen years?
A: We should probably start by loving ourselves and others and they will in turn hopefully love themselves and others. Also, relate to them. Appreciate The Teenager (sometimes easier said than done). Don’t dismiss them because they’re teenagers. Listen to what they listen to. And having a good sense of humor about ourselves is also helpful with this. Laughing at ourselves helps us not expect too much of ourselves. I could make a list a mile long of mistakes I’ve made along the way that have helped me know how to better encourage self-love. Perhaps I should have answered what NOT to do!
Q: Any specific advice for parents who are raising blended families? Or just big families in general? Tricks for minimizing chaos and maybe even having siblings come out of it all as friends would be greatly appreciated.
A: Again, communication is so important here. Admit you don’t have all the answers but give them the opportunity to ask for them. Save money or go in debt for therapy. That sounds like I’m being funny, but I am 100% serious. And obviously, love them and listen to them and cry with them and laugh with them. Don’t make things about yourself. They may not give you the kind of love you want or need, but they are the ones who need us. Their needs trump yours.
As for siblings being friends, a lot of this has to do with personality and interests. You can’t force it, obviously. It’s important to try and not let cliques form under your roof–though sometimes it happens: boys against girls or older kids against the younger. We’ve tried to not let the stereotypical “I’m supposed to be rude to my siblings” thing happen. When we see it brewing, we call it out. I’d also say that we have leaned on the older kids to try and be the example here. It’s obvious, but the younger one’s not only look up to them but are also taking relationship cues from them as well. If the older kids feel responsible to be the example, then maybe we can lean into something more fruitful. But sometimes, of course, it all goes to pot, and we have to start over. Heath and I talk often about how we’re not raising teens and tweens; we’re raising future 30-year-olds. So we try and keep our eyes on the long game, hoping that enough relationship and goodwill is built now that will gain momentum and sincerity the older they get.