Michael Strahan says ‘the hardest part’ of parenting teenage twin girls is not being a pushover: ‘I’m just dying to give in’

Michael Strahan says giving back has become a family tradition in his household. (Getty Images; designed by Caitlin Murray)
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Welcome to So Mini Ways, Yahoo Life's parenting series on the joys and challenges of child-rearing.

Michael Strahan is one busy dad. When he’s not co-anchoring Good Morning America on weekdays or analyzing sports on Fox NFL Sunday, the football star turned journalist, 51, is simply trying to hold down the fort as the father of teenage twin girls.

“The hardest part is trying to be strict and say ‘no,’ and be really tough on something, when inside I’m just, like, dying to give in,” he says of being a pushover with his twins, Isabella and Sophia, 18, shared with ex-wife Jean Muggli.

Strahan, also dad to daughter Tanita, 30, and son Michael Jr., 27, with his first wife Wanda Hutchins, admits it’s never an easy thing to watch his kids grow into adults — something he’s trying to avoid for as long as he can.

“I cannot wait for them to go to [college], but it’s actually a bittersweet thing,” he says. “The bitter part is, of course, I'm gonna miss my kids when they're gone. But the sweet part is that they get a chance to grow and become adults. That's what I don't want to hold them back from. I’ve seen so many parents and friends of mine with a mindset of, my kid is going to school and I'm gonna get a place right next door and basically be their roommate. I'm like, that's not how life works. Kids need their own identity, their own space to grow, so that's what I'm giving my girls.”

Even more bittersweet is that the rest of his kids are scattered across the country — one in California and the other in Colorado, as well as his mother and extended family in Texas — which makes holiday get-togethers all the more special.

“One of the two holidays — whether it’s Christmas or Thanksgiving — we make sure we spend one of them all together,” he says. “This year it will be Christmas.”

Giving back is a top priority around the holidays for his family. A passionate spokesperson for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital — a cancer research institute that treats children suffering from diseases without any charge to the parents — Strahan's philanthropic work has become an annual tradition.

“It's important to raise awareness,” he says of his partnership with St. Jude. “For me, having four kids and having them all be healthy, it makes me realize just how unfortunate when your kid isn’t — and how devastating that must be. To have a place that helps you and takes care of your bills and doesn't charge you to treat your child, that's priceless.”

“The girls have always been involved in doing charity, food kitchens, all these different things,” he says. “Those things are important in making sure somebody is well-rounded. And that's always been my thing, just making sure my kids, all of them, are well-rounded individuals that don't take anything for granted.”

Strahan’s schedule is jam-packed these days, which is why prioritizing a little “me time” has been vital to his mental health lately.

“I don't do anything I don't want to do,” he says, a mantra he’s only put into practice recently. “I realized that I have to protect my mental health, and nothing's gonna operate well [if I’m stressed]. And in order to do that I need time to decompress. I need time to relax. I need time to sleep. I need all those things.”

What he doesn’t need, he discovered a while ago, is social media, which he’s given up. That’s helped him find balance.

“I realized, oh my goodness, I'm kind of addicted to social media,” he shares. “I was addicted to having that opinion and posting something and hearing what people are saying. And then I realized, you know what? Maybe I’ll try [deleting it]. So I took that app off my phone and I have not put it back on my phone for six, seven years. Now my anxiety level is at zero, because I don't see what other people's opinions are. It really doesn't matter anyway. And that's been, like, a life changer.”

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