Watching your child grow into a teenager can be a proud and exciting journey – but it can also bring some new challenges.
Adolescence can be a tough time for the whole family, with intense emotional and physical changes often causing teens to be moody and withdraw from their parents.
Parents play a huge part in helping teenagers grow into well-adjusted adults. Your relationship with your child during this period can directly impact their behaviour, happiness, and their future relationships.
We hope these tips for parenting teenagers help you develop a positive relationship and give them the building blocks for a healthy adulthood.
Get to know their friends
Teenagers are strongly influenced by the behaviour of their peers. Their social groups can shape their decisions on everything from what they wear to how hard they try in school. Many teens seek acceptance from their peers and may do things they don’t want to in order to achieve it.
Research shows teens are more likely to engage in risky behaviours like smoking if their friends engage in those behaviours. Meanwhile, having high-achieving friends can influence teenagers’ own academic achievement and enjoyment of school.
It’s important to know who your child is spending their time with and keep an eye out if they’re getting into the ‘wrong crowd’. Make an effort to get to know your child’s friends, and be sure to meet their parents before agreeing to sleepovers.
Support their involvement in activities
Adolescence is a time of self-discovery and experimentation. Encourage your teen to try new things and learn new skills by joining a sport or activity.
Extracurricular activities can give them skills for later in life, like teamwork, leadership and discipline. They can also help build their confidence and provide an opportunity to meet likeminded people outside of school.
Maintain open communication
Are your questions met with a one-word answer or a grunt? Wondering what happened to your little chatterbox?
It’s normal for teens to withdraw from their parents and want to spend more time alone. But whether they’d like to admit it or not, your teenager needs you. Respect their privacy and new boundaries, but let them know you’re there for them.
When they do open up, listen with empathy and validate their feelings. Offer advice when warranted, but skip the preachy lectures. Remember that their hormones might be amplifying every negative situation and emotion for them right now, so allow their feelings to happen and don’t minimise them. They may start keeping things from you if they feel judged or like they can’t trust you.
It’s healthy for teenagers to pull away from their parents and start to do things for themselves a little more. This is crucial for their development into an independent adult. You should encourage your teen to be more self-sufficient and not expect to be treated like a child (where appropriate).
This might include:
- Taking responsibility for their own actions
- Contributing to the housework
- Learning basic tasks like cooking and laundry
- Shopping for their own clothing
- Paying their own phone bill.
Remember to let your teenager know they can still come to you if they need help or advice. Their independence should still be supervised until they’re adults.
Monitor their mental health
Studies show 1 in 7 young people aged 4 to 17 years experience a mental health condition in any given year. Almost 1 in 5 of all young people aged 11 to 17 years experience high or very high levels of psychological distress.
Some signs your teen might be struggling include:
- Feeling sad, moody and irritable
- Having trouble concentrating and staying focused
- Changes in sleep (e.g. sleeping more or less)
- Changes in appetite or weight (e.g. eating more or less)
- Unexplained physical complaints like headaches or stomach aches
- Withdrawing and spending a lot of time in their room alone
- Not being interested in the activities they normally enjoy
- Not wanting to go to school or socialise.
Be sure to pay extra attention to your teen’s behaviour and moods during this time, and check in regularly to see how they’re going.
If you worry your teen might be having a tough time, counselling could be a good option. Seeing a counsellor can help your teen talk about their problems in a safe and supportive environment and find ways to cope. RAQ offers counselling for individuals as well as family counselling – perfect if you need some help communicating or resolving conflict with your teenager.
You can call 1300 364 277 to learn more about our services and book a counselling appointment in person, over the phone or via Zoom video chat.