The teenage years can be difficult.
Surging hormones, changing bodies, studying, friendships, fallouts, the first experience of a broken heart: the journey into adulthood can seem endless. Furthermore, with mental health issues in young people being described as an ‘escalating crisis’ (bbc.co.uk, 2019), it is a particularly turbulent time to be a teenager.
But what is it like for parents?
Dynamics in your relationship with your child can change significantly during this stage of life. Some may find their child becoming ambivalent with their attachment: still needing the guidance and care of their parent but resisting the boundaries and structure they received as children. Other young people may withdraw into themselves, with the gargantuan rise of social media cited as one of the main contributors to the rise of anxiety disorders in young people (childmind.org, 2019). It could be suggested that gently engaging your child in conversation, perhaps while doing an activity you both enjoy, could be a positive step towards communicating effectively.
Raising young children can come with many obstacles, but when your child becomes a teenager, a whole different wave of questions and worries are likely to occur for parents. No longer restricted to a playground, your teenager may be beginning to engage with an increased workload, experimenting with sex and relationships and becoming aware of their adult body (jbcnschool.edu.in, 2017). This can be a difficult path to navigate, and approaching conversations with your child may seem uncomfortable, but it can also be an opportunity for mutual growth, deepening your relationship.
Read below for our tips in caring for both yourself and your child:
Communicating with your child can help put both of your minds at rest. If your child has a question or worry, try and be honest, empathetic and non-judgemental (nhs.co.uk, 2019). It’s difficult to refrain from trying to ‘fix’ an issue your child is experiencing, but try to listen to simply hear them, and not listen to advise.
- Spend quality time together
Doing things you both enjoy such as watching a football game together, splurging on a shopping trip, or simply sitting down with a cup of tea can strengthen help strengthen your bond and allow for easier conversation.
- Allow space
Spending time together is great but, giving your teenager space and appropriate freedom can be beneficial for both of you. Giving your child a diary to write down their feelings can be helpful especially if you are worried about them feeling to isolated. You can even invite them to share their thoughts with you by writing them down, if face-to-face conversation is too difficult for either of you. You can also use a diary to help with your thoughts and feelings.
- Try to not take it personally
If your child does require space, try not to take it as a reflection on your parenting. Everyone needs space from time-to-time, and respecting that may encourage them to open-up when they are ready.
- Set boundaries
While encouraging your child’s self-care and independence, setting clear boundaries and expectations can help guide them as they mature (relate.org.uk).
- Give yourself a ‘pat-on-the-back’
Parenting, at any stage of your child’s development, is not an easy job. If, at times, it may seem like your efforts are going unnoticed, please be assured that you are doing a great job.
Written by Rachael O’Brien
National Support Administrator for Counselling