• Sue Doo

Parenting your teen

Did you believe that as your children got older life would get easier?

Did you buy into the illusion that you would feel less tired and stressed?

Photo by Patrick Buck on Unsplash


It’s odd, how there’s this underlying sense that when our children are hitting their tween and teen years life for us will be easier, even plain sailing!

Now these young people can tell you what they need, want, and don’t want. They can dress, wash, and feed themselves. Even begin doing jobs around the house and help to put their washing in the laundry basket, school bag in their room, and generally entertain themselves.

We get lulled into a false sense of how life will be!

Don’t get me wrong it’s not all doom and gloom. I’ve had some amazing conversations with my teens over the years, some great laughs because of their age and growing sense of humour.

I just feel that it would have been lovely to have had a head’s up as to how that time was going to be. The transition that they would go through and that I would also need to get on board with. I don’t have a problem with the whole growing up phases and I relish and enjoy each stage. I get that my teen doesn’t need me in the same way, and that’s ok! Seriously it is!

The teens years can be a time of:

Late nights worrying.

Uncomfortable silences.

Walking on eggshells.

Angry encounters that I always berate myself for, because “I could/should have dealt with it so much better” – in fact so many situations that I have felt unequipped for and completely out of my depth.

Where had the mum and baby groups gone? The safe place I could go to and get support from my fellow parents, discuss in a friendly and caring environment how to best get Jonny, Sam, or Davey (all fictitious names) to do x, y or z?

There’s a real sense of being alone when you are a parent of teens – the house can be full of noise, that’s jostling for space between the sprawled bodies, and piles of stuff but there’s an underlying loneliness for many mums and dads as they move about the house. Unseen, unheard, and ignored.

It feels like we’ve moved overnight from the young children who wanted an extra hug or to share a kiss and snuggle on the sofa, to a cohort of young people whose needs are the same, but different. They need me to listen at the right time, not offer any thoughts, drop them off, pick them up later, hug them today, but tomorrow will be different, probably, so don’t think you’re on a roll.

Ensuring what they want to wear tonight is washed and ready – because we also must become mind readers. We need to have an unending capacity to listen unconditionally to all their new ideas, angst, and anger.

I have at times felt unprepared, out of my depth and alone.

Have you ever felt that way?

In contrast, I have loved the transition of child to teen, and on into adulthood. I am grateful every day that I have been privileged to be a part of their world, their lives, and we have had some wonderful times.

My biggest fear has been ‘what if I get it all wrong?’ What do I do if they don’t like me as an adult, they don’t want to spend time with me? That would be a loss that I couldn’t cope with.

I’ve had many golden moments that I will treasure forever over my 3 respective young people’s transitions to teens and on into adulthood.

Moments that have felt so luxurious and decadent. When I am seen as a person again, someone who knows something, or is worthy of sharing their whispered laughter, conversations, and a window into their world opens for a sliver of time.

I would have just liked more of a heads up, support group, or someone to turn to on those really difficult, and at times, dark days. Someone to share my pain, my doubts, and insecurities with.

I believe that as parents of teens, if we all talked a little more, then we would find we are all in the same boat. Just like the baby, infant and toddler stages.

I’ve had clients explain how unsettling it is as their young person transitions to secondary school. Where suddenly they are sharing with you the names of friends that you don’t know, families you’ve never met and if you probe them they can become indignant, sullen, and defensive. Their guard goes back up, their eyes roll, shoulders hunch over and that conversation is finished.

Note to self: “Must remember to just listen next time!”

But you’re doing what you have done for the last 10, 11,12,13 odd years of their lives, being interested, and wanting to be part of this next exciting phase.

But the rules have changed, and no one has told us.

Teens are wanting to step out in their own strength, and we want them to. They are starting to learn higher level skills of cooking, planning, structuring their time, thinking about the career they want while along side all of that, their minds are going through a huge shift. As well as wanting to fit in and spend more time with their peers. It’s a challenging time for us all.

We don’t want to get to a place where we are just agreeing “do whatever you want, you don’t listen anyway” this is defeatist and leaves both sides upset, angry and confused.

We need to start learning some techniques to help us develop, build, and support our young people. Teaching them its ok to get angry, say sorry, how to be polite, respectful and most of all grow into caring considerate adults.

It’s worth considering all of this because they are the future and although they are not necessarily smarter than us, they have a world of information at their fingertips that we never had. World news online 24/7, gossip, tips, and trivia from celebrities. Travelling has become far more accessible for our kids and we pride ourselves as parents on the opportunities we can give them. Whether it’s a week in Lulworth Cove, time in Scotland or some other far-flung land.

Our children are exposed to so much more and they are busy these days with extra sports clubs, music lessons or the chance to learn mandarin!

Add to this busy parents, packed roads, and time pressures, its not surprising we all get wound up, lash out and lose our cool.

What we are drilling into here is that although our young people may have information and technology at their fingertips, that is providing them with knowledge and data at an alarming rate. On a basic emotional level, they are just the same as we were.

They may have more information about sex and drugs than we did but this doesn’t help them make rational, logical, or sensible choices. They have the same lack of common sense that we did.

They may seem more mature, but they are not. They need us to be the best that we can be, and we need to see that we can help them, we do have the skills.

5 tips for parenting our teens

1. Look after yourself – remember the health and safety card on a plane? Put your oxygen mask on first. So, make sure you’re in a good place so you can help your young person.

2. Listen, listen, and listen some more. Let your teen talk, completely, to the end of what they have to say. Then reflect on what you have heard. E.g., “It sounds like you’re having a tough time at the moment.” Thank them for telling you and then ask them what they want or need now.

3. When getting your point across – be concise, quick and do not repeat!

4. STAY CALM! Don’t yell, shout, or scream. Be the adult you want them to be. Get some space - Walk away if you can’t hold it together. It’s tough, it’s the hardest thing to do, not going down to their level. But hold your grit, breathe, and take some time for you. Even if you need to head out for a walk or down to the shed.

5. Respect each other – be aware that your teen is growing up and that means that they will want to have their own views, ideas, and thoughts. Encourage these and listen to them. You don’t have to agree but you may learn something new.

Please don’t imagine for a second that I have this all down, I don’t and that’s why I’m so passionate about letting other parents know that we are all, if not in the same boat,

we are all part of the same flotilla!

Practicing these tips and tools will make all the difference and just like when we learnt to ride a bike or roller skate, we will fall over, we will wish we had done it differently. What’s important is that we are working on it.

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