By Helen at Branch Counselling
Bringing up teenagers can be a tough gig – there are many books, classes and groups when you have a baby and people understand when you tell them how hard it is. But, as children grow older the support lessens, there are fewer books are available and groups for parents of teens don’t really exist. We parents also need to be careful because, while it is totally acceptable to discuss the contents of your little one’s nappy, talking about the details of your teenager’s life can be inappropriate and they have the right to some privacy. For a parent, finding support from trusted friends or family members who can keep information to themselves is invaluable, because navigating the life of a teenager is so complex.
It is complex because their life is complex. A developing brain, a cocktail of hormones and changing bodies are difficult enough and that is before we look at the world around them. As adults we can feel the pressure to be a perfect parent, to have a career, to cook fabulous meals, to have a gleaming home, to have a social life and to look amazing – our teens have similar pressures but magnified by peer pressure, media and social media. Academic pressure is also high, schools are doing numerous mock exams a year, teachers are passing their stress to students and homework and revision seems cruel after a 6 hour day. Teenagers also have to arrive at school with their eyebrows on fleek and be hanging with the right people. They are judged for every movement and their inadequacies are discussed in detail on group chat, whether they are in the group or not. When things are discussed online, people say things they would never say face-to-face, it is a little like the road rage effect. Teenagers can never escape, the pressure doesn’t disappear the minute they get home, in fact it continues through the night.
Bringing up teenagers: how can we help our children (and our own sanity!)? Here are a few introductory ideas….
- Make home as safe a place as possible: Removing their phone completely may cause huge anxiety but you can create pockets of screen free time. Eating together phone free; phones being charged away from the bed; no phones in the bathroom; turning phones over when talking or watching tv so notifications are not blinking with a constant call for attention. Whatever guidelines work for you and your family, this will likely benefit the adults in the house too.
- Perhaps create a signal, if your child uses a key word when asking or texting to go out it means they want you to say ‘no’. This means they can get out of situations they would rather not be in and reinforces that you are on their side, you are their safe person.
- Often we can’t jump in to fix a situation for our teens but we can always listen. It is better to know the problem and to feel like you are working alongside them to find a solution than to not know what is wrong.
- Make chatting a normal part of family life early on – if they are reluctant to share something then a simple ‘what was 1 good thing and 1 bad thing about your day?’ is a start.
If they are more reluctant, ask them to say a number; 0 being the worst of the worst (help me) and 10 being amazing! They might have shut down, but you are still showing that you are available.
- It is likely your teenager is asking for more independence and freedom, this is fine but keep in place some boundaries and expectations. Boundaries mean safety, in a school setting the ones looking to be told off are often the ones who have no boundaries at home. In a world of uncertainty knowing consequences and what will happen at home, is a relief.
- Mental health is very much a part of teenage life these days and if they are not struggling themselves then it is likely that one of their friends or classmates are, so open conversation and awareness is key. It is difficult, even for the professionals, to judge what is normal life stress or hormones, and what is anxiety and depression, so if you both have questions then ask! What you can do early on is help your young adult learn about self-care, being aware of when they feel stressed or exhausted and what to do when they are. You can model this yourself (always a bonus) and maybe do self-care activities together.
If you need more information about bringing up a teenager have a look at the links below, or contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Family information/ support
- Family lives helpline http://www.familylives.org.uk/how-we-can-help/confidential-helpline/
- Young Minds (parent helpline) https://youngminds.org.uk/
- NHS self help leaflets https://www.ntw.nhs.uk/pic/selfhelp/
- Information for adults on children’s mental health http://www.minded.org.uk/
- Teenage health worries http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/family-health/Pages/worried-about-your-teenager.aspx
- Guide to mental health https://www.helpguide.org/articles/depression/parents-guide-to-teen-depression.htm
- Barnardos http://www.barnardos.org.uk/index.htm
- Protecting your children Online https://www.thinkuknow.co.uk/parents/
- Parents against child sexual exploitations http://paceuk.info/
- Parents guide to online safety https://www.kidguard.com/cell-phone-monitoring-and-gps-tracking/
- Free online course to help parents understand self harm http://www.safeguardingchildrenea.co.uk/self-harm-free-online-course/
- Building resilience in teenagers http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/resilience.aspx
- Self harm information http://www.healthtalk.org/peoples-experiences/mental-health/self-harm-parents-experiences/overview
- Eating Disorders information http://www.healthtalk.org/young-peoples-experiences/eating-disorders/topics
- Depression and low mood in young people information http://www.healthtalk.org/young-peoples-experiences/depression-and-low-mood/topics
- Streetwise https://www.streetwisenorth.org.uk/ Counselling, information, advice, sexual health.
- Mental health matters http://www.mentalhealthmatters.com/about-mental-health-matters/ supporting families and carers with issues around mental health and other issues.
- Self help
- Students Against Depression http://studentsagainstdepression.org
- Teen Help https://www.teenhelp.com/
- Mood Cafe http://www.moodcafe.co.uk/
- Young Minds https://youngminds.org.uk/
- Mesmac http://mesmacnewcastle.com/
- Mood Juice http://www.moodjuice.scot.nhs.uk/mildmoderate/home.asp
- Talk to Frank http://www.talktofrank.com/
- Support for under 25’s in different areas http://www.themix.org.uk/
- Mindfulness – http://bemindful.co.uk/
- Online Child Protection https://ceop.police.uk/safety-centre/
- Support for young people around domestic abuse http://thehideout.org.uk/
- Relationship abuse, sexting, porn etc. https://www.disrespectnobody.co.uk/
- LGBTQ support http://www.youngstonewall.org.uk/lgbtq-info