3. Parenting and the teenage years

The teenage years can be one of the more challenging times for parents. This time is when a young person is exploring their own identity, questioning and challenging decisions and trying to pave their own way in life.

At this stage, they often need your guidance, space to grow, positive communication, clear boundaries and positive discipline. They need you to help them boost their self-esteem, help them grow in confidence all whilst they go through so many changes. Their bodies are changing, their thoughts are often maturing and they are considering their place in adulthood which can be a daunting experience. 

You may be working with teens in your school and see the changes your students are going through. However, when it is in your family life, it can feel like a totally different experience. What teens need the most is your love and support so they are able to find their place in the world but have the security they need to flourish. 

You may be experiencing risky behaviour from your teen. It may be that they are hanging out with friends you disapprove of or perhaps dabbling in alcohol, smoking or drugs. If this is the case, it can be really hard to try and maintain boundaries. It is important at this time to understand what your teen is going through. Are they looking for acceptance by their peers and following the crowd? Are they feeling low, depressed or anxious and dabbling in substances as an emotional crutch? Approaching this issue will require you to be calm. If you go in shouting or frustrated then they may not feel able to talk to you about the why and what. Set aside some time to talk things through more openly.

You can talk to them about why they are engaging in this behaviour, what they are getting from it and do they want to change things. You can ask your teen what they feel they would like to do when they are older.  Hopefully, if they are able to tell you what their future goals are, you could use this as a bargaining tool to refocus their attention to a more positive path. This may help them see that there is a different path they can take rather than a negative one.  You could also access local youth services as they may have mentoring schemes to help your child. For further advice, you can call Family Lives on 0808 800 2222.  Please visit Family Lives teen advice section for more information on risky behaviours and communicating with your teen. 

Teen and relationships

If your teen has shown an interest in relationships, you may be worried about how to tackle this. It is often presumed because you are able to work with other children in the classroom on issues such as sex, healthy relationships or pornography that you are able to deal with this within your family life. However, it can be difficult to tackle these issues when it is your own teen as it can be hard to encourage them to open up. 

It is important to try and have an open conversation with your teen about issues such as consent, what is a healthy relationship, feeling under pressure and other issues such as sexting. This may be awkward but if they know that you are there for them gives them the security they need to make the right choices. 

When they fly the nest

This is often one of the saddest and exciting times for a parent when your child decides to leave home. They may be leaving to go to university or moving in with friends or perhaps going off to travel. Whatever their reasons, your feelings as a parent can often be likened to grief. It can feel like a loss when suddenly you cannot hear them rattling around the house. However, it is important to know that your child will always need you and will need your guidance to make it in the adult world. 

When your child leaves the family home, it can put a strain on your relationship with your partner. Suddenly you may find yourself with lots of time with your partner or you may be under financial pressure paying for your child to be and university. Whatever the reasons, recognise any changes early on and communicate with your partner. Set down some new relationship boundaries so that as a couple you can grow stronger together. If things do get too much and you are finding things tough, call Family Lives on 0808 800 2222 for support and advice. 

This is the perfect opportunity to throw yourself into something that you have always wanted to do but never had the time or courage. Take up a new class, or you may be thinking about taking on new work challenges. This may be a great time to give yourself something back after all the years of parenting and family life. 

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