Do you sometimes wonder whether your child is experiencing issues or challenges because you did something wrong as a parent? If so, you're not alone.
Parenting can be tough, and ideas on how to do it and what is expected of you as a parent are constantly changing. Your child will always be influenced by your role as a parent, particularly when they're going through tough times. There are things that you can try to help you feel more confident about 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, is most likely to produce young people with good self-esteem and effective coping strategies. Adolescence is about testing boundaries in the quest to become independent. But, you still need to set boundaries, as these support your child and give them a sense of security.
The boundaries you set need to be clear, and not be designed as punishment. Your teen is becoming more independent, discovering who they are and trying to become responsible for themselves – and your boundaries need to respect this. Try to be consistent in your approach and avoid erratic discipline. Make sure your teen knows what you expect of them.
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 you focus on them when you do spend together.
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 they don’t want to talk to you about their stuff; they just may not be ready yet. Let them know that you’re interested and ready to listen whenever they’re ready to talk.
Find out about your teen as a person. What’s important to them? They’re exploring the world for themselves, and their views and values may differ 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, but you need to recognise your teen’s boundaries. They might not be as close and affectionate with you as when they were younger. Providing comfort when they’re distressed or anxious, and being there no matter what, will reassure them that if they need you, you’ll be there for them. Find time to laugh, have fun and get to know each other as people – it can be an exciting time for you both.
Be a team
Working with your teen on projects, activities or hobbies can be a nurturing experience. It will help your teen develop communication and teamwork skills, while strengthening your relationship through shared experiences.
Talk to other parents
Talking to other parents, and sharing strategies and stories with them, can be a great way to boost your confidence as a parent. Speak with 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 with other parents in the ReachOut Parents forums 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’re ready to have a positive interaction. Read more about the importance of self-care here.