Actress and single mom, Jodi Sta. Maria shares her take on raising a teenager and the challenges that come with it.
Watching your child grow up is a bitter-sweet experience. For Jodi Sta. Maria, the years seemed to have flown right by. Raising her 15 year old son, Thirdy Lacson, has been quite the journey for the single mom, and she’s weighing in on the ups and downs of growing through life with a teenager.
The onset of puberty can bring new feelings of uncertainty for adolescents and worry for the parents. We begin to feel concerned about their social and emotional well being, as well as their friendship choices. With younger children, we’ve been accustomed to managing pretty much every aspect of their lives— from the way they dress, what they eat, where they go, and who we schedule playdates with. One day, all of that changes, and this is something that Jodi has experienced firsthand.
It’s all part of the process
When it comes to parenting a teenager, the demands on your time and energy are different from when your child was younger. For single parents in particular, this can be a tough adjustment to get used to especially when raising an only-child. “The challenge for me has been the transition from Thirdy being so dependent on me to now pulling away,” says Jodi. “Because he’s at that age where it’s his time to be his own person, he’s finding his place in the sun, and creating his own identity apart from me,” she adds.
“Now that he’s grown, it has been difficult for me, as his mother, to feel as though I am no longer the most important person in his life. He’s a teenager, he has friends, and we all know that this is the time where influence and pressure from your peers or the outside world become a huge factor.”
Jodi mentions that she tried to prepare for this as best she could, but was still caught off guard when she started to notice these changes in her own son. She expressed concern, saying, “I do feel as if he is falling away. He spends a lot of time in his room, and even if I ask him to accompany me to go somewhere, most of the time he declines. It was hard because when he became a teen, all of a sudden we were no longer close or super attached to each other. There are times I really feel like I didn’t know him anymore.”
Witnessing the transformation into becoming their own person
When you put into consideration that the teen years are a period of intense growth, not only physically but emotionally and intellectually, it’s understandable that it’s a time of confusion and upheaval for many families. For Jodi, she braced herself for impact, and approached the season with compassion and understanding.
“I just had to accept that this phase was coming. He’s trying to be his own person. He’s creating his personality and finding new interests. With teens, you can’t tell them what to wear, what to like, or what to do. No, they have their own opinions, they make their own decisions, they have their own unique way of expressing themselves— in the way they dress or how they carry themselves.”
As teens mature, they start to think more abstractly and rationally. Not only do they form their own moral code, but suddenly begin asserting themselves — and their opinions — strongly, and testing the limits of parental control. “I noticed that when he was younger, if I told him to do something, he’d do it. If I told him to go somewhere, he’d go. Now, I feel like even if I paid him, he won’t go with me,” shares Jodi with a laugh.
Keeping them in check
At a certain age, it’s typical for teenagers to place significant value on their friendships. That circle becomes their lifeline to their own universe, and Jodi is thankful that her son has been able to maintain good relationships through most of his young life.
As schools shut down, sports activities have stopped and students have transitioned to online learning. Another adjustment our teens have had to grasp, making human connection vital in their overall wellbeing. “He has a group of friends that I like because they’re good kids. Some are from his childhood, some are his teammates. But of course, as time goes on, he meets other people that are not part of his regular social circle,” explains Jodi.
With online gaming and social media having an incredible influence on teenage relationships, it’s no surprise that parents make that extra effort to really get to know who’s who when it comes to their children’s inner circle. Jodi admits, “To be completely honest, I don’t approve of all of my son’s friends. As a mom, I believe we have this kind of intuition. We get a feel of whether or not someone may or may not be a good influence on our child. The same kind of kids our parents warned us to stay away from.”
Making mistakes and learning the hard lessons
You can advise and teach your child everything there is to know about the world, but life has a way of throwing curve balls when we least expect it. In light of recent headline-making events, Jodi is making sure she’s there for her son when he needs her the most.
“We all make mistakes, but that doesn’t make us bad people. I can’t say what happened was a good thing, but when challenges like these come up, you always have to try to look for the good in the situation. I see it as something that makes our bond stronger, and our relationship better,” says Jodi.
She continues, “You always have the power to choose. But the consequences of your actions, you don’t get to choose that.”
The world continues to spin on its axis
Though teenagers can be hard to parent, the good news is that parenting teens is, in many ways, a hell of a lot easier than managing little kids. It’s all a matter of perspective and how we choose to deal with certain situations. “There’s so much going on, and a lot of pressure coming from all directions. I feel like you really just have to make time to sit down and talk about it. Even if he is growing up and starting to become his own person, I am happy to say that our communication lines these days are wide open.”
The single mom shares that despite the trials and tribulations, there is nothing that will change the love she has for her son. “My blessing with Thirdy is that he still says ‘I love you.’ It doesn’t embarrass him. He always checks up on me. And when we talk, he really shares his thoughts and opinions about the way he sees the world,” she proudly says, in awe of the young man she has watched grow up before her very eyes.
Isn’t that the thing with teenagers? They might pull away for some time in pursuit of their own identity and to find their way in the world, but at the end of the day, they do come around. We all know that no matter how old they get, they will always be our babies.
Words THEA ARVISU
Photography MIGUEL ABESAMIS
Art Direction FERDI SALVADOR
Styling PAUL SESE
Make Up LALA FLORES
Hairstyling JOSEPH FANTONE
Shot on location SHANGRILA-LA AT THE FORT