JOURNAL

Courtney Adamo on Parenting Teens

Courtney wears the Georgie linen blazer & Romy pant in buttercup

 

It was more than six years ago when I first contacted Courtney Adamo to see if she’d be interviewed for a story on my website The Grace Tales – and while it feels like a lifetime ago, it also feels like that photo shoot was just yesterday. At the time, she was travelling around Australia on holidays. It was on that trip that she decided Byron Bay was where she wanted to call home and not long after, she began the process of making the move to Australia a permanent one...

 

If you’re one of Courtney Adamo’s followers on Instagram, you’ll know she became a “parenting influencer” long before anyone had even heard of the term. But given she’s the mother to five children ranging from toddler to teen, it’s no wonder she’s built a hugely successful career doing what’s most important to her: being a mother. 



Here, we visit Courtney at home to talk about her career journey, raising teens, and building her dream home by the beach.

 

 


               L: Courtney wears our Georgie blazer & Romy pant   R: Lottie maxi dress   


IN CONVERSATION WITH COURTNEY ADAMO


How has life you changed over the last 6 years since you moved to Australia?


In many ways, because our life here in Australia is such a contrast from our life in London, we see our life in chapters, where London was the previous chapter and Byron Bay is the current one. It does feel like a lifetime ago that we lived in London! We had a much more traditional working arrangement in London, where we both worked long hours in an office, we had a nanny who watched our kids 3 days a week, and we looked forward all week to the weekends together as a family.


Here in Australia, Michael and I both work from home and have much more flexible working hours. We both finish work by 4pm each day, which means we spend way more time as a family, we eat dinner together every night (Michael doing all the cooking, which is amazing!), and our schedule is much more relaxed. Of course the weather is so much better here, so that allows us to spend more time outside and in nature. The pace of our lives feels much slower and less stressful, and things generally feel easier. Of course we miss the busy-ness of London some times, and we definitely miss the culture and diversity and all the many offerings of city life, but this is the compromise. We still feel really happy we moved here and can’t imagine living anywhere else now that we are settled here.


You parent children of all ages – we know the early days of motherhood are challenging. How would you say those challenges differ to parenting teenagers?


Gosh, parenting babies and toddlers is hard work! It’s exhausting and physically demanding, and the work doesn’t stop until you put them to bed at night. I look back on those years so fondly and I did really love those years, but truthfully it was a blurry, busy time, and I’m sure I mostly only remember the highlights.


I remember dreading the teenage years — I really feared my kids would suddenly turn into snarky, sullen teens who would be extra challenging and make our lives difficult and change our family dynamic. The dynamic of our family has definitely changed with teenagers (it’s inevitable!), and of course we have challenging moments, but in general, I really, really enjoy the teenagers. This stage of parenting is less demanding and exhausting, which allows for more patience and compassion (and believe me, you need lots of patience and compassion when you have teenagers!!). They’re also really fun to be around when they’re in the mood to engage, and it’s a joy to watch them grow into individuals with their own thoughts and interests and passions.


The challenges are different, I guess. They can be moody and sensitive and unpredictable. They stay up late, so there’s no switching off from parenting. They eat constantly, so the kitchen always feels messy. They use my moisturiser, constantly steal the phone charger, and I swear my tweezers are never where I left them! They have lots of opinions, which can feel overwhelming in a big family like ours. Dinnertime can either be incredibly wonderful, or it can be a complete disastrous mess with sibling bickering and cranky kids and lots of noise.


 Courtney wears our Alice maxi dress

 

Getting kids to do chores can be hard – and often parents just give up and do the chore themselves because it’s easier than nagging our kids. How do you navigate chores in your household and what tips do you have?

 

I grew up in a big family, and chores were just part of our lives from a young age. We grew up on a farm, and we all had to contribute to helping around the garden and the house. Sometimes I think my parents even made up chores for us because they believed so strongly in instilling a good work ethic in their children! I guess, because of this, I’ve always believed in the importance of chores. And even, like you said, when kids are young and their help is actually not that helpful. I think it’s important for kids to understand how much work is involved in running a house and raising a family, and kids always do feel a sense of accomplishment when they contribute. Also, when you start with chores when they’re young, they don’t question it so much when they’re older.


Saying this, of course I still have to regularly remind and sometimes even nag, and the kids still have arguments over who’s turn it is to do the dishes, etc. This is part of family life, I guess. One tip I have for teens is to keep reminders friendly and to give them a time frame. I often say to my kids, “before dinner, can you please … xxx”, so that they feel you are respecting their schedule and allowing them to feel they have autonomy over the timing of when they do the chore. Also, sometimes I write down all the chores that need to happen and let the kids choose which ones they want to do. Kids, especially teens, like to feel they have a choice, and if they’ve chosen something, they’re generally more inclined to do the chore without a grumble.

 

You run courses on parenting teens – what are the most common concerns of the parents in your community?

 

Definitely screen time is a big one. I think any parent of tweens or teens feels confused over how to navigate this constantly changing digital world. We all have concerns over how much is too much, what sort of boundaries to put in place, and how to find a bit more balance for our kids. Another big one is mental health and self-esteem. It’s really normal for kids to struggle with self-confidence, especially in the early years of adolescence as their brains and bodies are changing. I really enjoy running these courses. Each session of the course I interview experts from around the world who offer tips and insights on adolescence, so I continue to learn and refresh my knowledge, which of course is incredibly helpful and relevant for our own family.

 

L: Courtney wears our Georgie blazer & Romy pant in peach   R: Alice maxi dress 

Courtney wears the Georgie linen blazer & Romy pant in buttercup

   

How have you personally navigated any challenges you’ve faced raising teens?


Like I said, it has been so helpful for me to study adolescence. I think it is really valuable to understand what’s going on for teenagers, because it helps to have more patience when they’re being highly emotional or angry. I often just picture in my head the adolescent brain and the changes that are taking place: the difference in growth and development between the prefrontal cortex (the part responsible for thinking, reasoning and logic) and the amygdala (responsible for emotions like happiness, anger and sadness). Just knowing that teens have a difficult time controlling emotions and impulses allows me to take things less
personally and be more patient with our children.


It’s also really helpful to have friends you can chat with about the challenges you’re going through. We’re all going through something, and just talking about it can make you feel heard and less alone. (This is another benefit of the courses I run — it’s wonderful to hear from other parents who have similar joys and struggles!).


Community is so important – tell me about the community you’ve found in Byron Bay?


We feel so lucky to live in an area where community is so valued; it’s one of the biggest reasons for moving here. We live in Bangalow, which is 10 minutes inland from Byron, so it’s an even smaller local community where everyone has a familiar face, people look after each other, kids are safe to run around, the dog gets returned if she manages to sneak out, and neighbours drop off extra fruit from their trees and extra veggies from their garden if they have a surplus, etc.


We also love the creative and entrepreneurial people in the Byron community — it’s really inspiring to meet people and hear what they’re doing. There are so many great new ideas! And people are really supportive of local businesses, which is beautiful to see. Earlier this year when the floods happened, it was incredible to watch how the community came together to help and support each other. It made me really proud to be a part of this community.


Navigating marriage and kids can be hard – how do you and Michael make time for one another?


This is definitely a benefit of having teenagers in the house. We always have a babysitter on hand, so we can be more spontaneous in spending time together. We can sneak out for an afternoon surf and leave the kids at home, or we can do yoga together in the living room and ask the big kids to play outside with the little ones. Last year we started going for walks around our neighbourhood after dinner, it was such a nice time to connect and reflect on our day, and if we were lucky, we’d come home to clean dishes and kids in pyjamas ready for bed. When we lived in London, we had to intentionally carve out time for date nights and schedule way in advance with a babysitter, and it all had to be really organised. I much prefer the more relaxed way of spending time together (thank you teens!).

  

Photography: Bridget Wood 

@bridgetwoodphotography 

Courtney Adamo | Follow 

@courtneyadamo 

Words: Georgie Abay

@thegracetales 


Courtney wears the Georgie linen blazer & Romy pant in buttercup

 

Peach Romy Pant

STYLE NOTES Crafted from linen, ...

$220

Alice Maxi Dress

STYLE NOTES The one-shouldered A...

$99

Terracotta Lottie Maxi Dress

STYLE NOTES Crafted from soft, b...

$269

Buttercup Georgie Linen Blazer

STYLE NOTES A tailored single br...

$289