Do you sometimes wonder whether the issues or challenges your child is experiencing are because you did something wrong as a parent? If so, you're not alone. Parenting can be tough, and how you do it and what is expected of you changes over time. Your child will always be influenced by your role as a parent, particularly when they're going through tough times. And there are things that you can try to help you feel more confident when it comes to parenting a teenager.
What’s important in parenting teenagers?
Being supportive of your child through positive communication while continuing to use firm and consistent discipline are most likely to produce young people with good self-esteem and coping strategies. Adolescence is about testing boundaries in the quest to become independent. But, you still need to set boundaries as these support to your child and make them feel a sense of security.
The boundaries you set need to be clear, consistent and not designed as punishment. And they need to respect the new boundaries that your child is establishing for themselves as they move to being independent and responsible for themselves. Try to be consistent in your approach and avoid erratic discipline. But still make it known to them what is important to you.
Positive interactions with your teenager
Simple actions are really important. Be present for your child. This means listening to what they say as much as being physically present. They’ll want to spend more time with their friends and by themselves, so it’s important that, in the time you do spend together, you are focusing on what they say.
Encourage your child to talk about their problems and feelings. Recognise that they’re more likely to be open about what's going on for them when they’re ready to talk. If they don’t respond to your questions, it doesn’t mean that they don’t want to talk to you about their stuff, just that they may not be ready yet. They need to know you are interested and ready to listen when they are ready to talk, let them know that. Find out about them – what’s important to them? They’re exploring the world for themselves and their views and values may different from yours. Loving and supporting them doesn’t mean changing your own values or views but it’s good to be open to and listen to different ideas. You could learn something!
Showing your affection and interest is important although how you do this will be different. Your child might not be as close and affectionate with you as when they were younger. Provide comfort when they are distressed and anxious. This is a parental role and might trigger a willingness to open up. Find time to laugh and have fun and get to know them in a different way. It can be a really exciting time for both of you.
Be a team
Working with your child on projects and activities can also be a nurturing experience and a way for a new relationship based around shared interests and hobbies that you both enjoy.
Talk to other parents
Talking to other parents and sharing strategies and stories can be a great way to boost your confidence as a parent. Talk to friends with children of similar ages, or the parents of your child’s friends. Chances are, you’ll feel less alone and realise that there are others going through similar challenges to you. Ask what has worked for them.
You may also like to talk to other parents in the ReachOut Parents forums and ask them questions about your concerns in a safe and anonymous environment.
Take care of yourself
Change can be stressful and you might find yourself worried and wondering if you can cope. It’s really important that you have time for yourself to manage your own feelings. Sometimes to be a good parent, you need to walk away from a particular situation until you are ready to have a positive interaction.
Talking about your feelings and experiences in parenting can also be helpful. Remember that the norms are different as teens develop. Particularly if your teen has some major mental health issues it can be important to be able for you to talk to family or friends about what’s going on. Lots of parents have been through experiences that might be useful to you.