• Kathy Shaw

Coping with teenagers

Updated: Jun 17, 2021

As a parent of three children aged 16, 17 and 20 I appreciate how parenting teenagers can sometimes be confusing and tough. As our children search for independence in their journey into adulthood, the home can feel like it has become a place akin to the battlefields of WW1. Our teens can leave us feeling rejected, criticised, old fashioned and unsure of what to do.

The guidance we receive from the government and 'parenting gurus' is conflicting as well as confusing, as they swing back and forth with their advice. We are told to listen to our children and stop repressing them, no, that's not working you need to be tougher now, no, you need to give them plenty of praise, no not that much praise, you need to guide them...….and on and on it goes. Although some of the advice is good it does not suit every family, or indeed every child...but what it does do is leave us feeling as though we have failed as parents when we do not measure up to the guidelines.

As a parent I have encountered many occasions when I would rather jet off on a plane to a remote island sipping cocktails than deal with my three children and their developing personalities, but I haven't and this is what I have learnt.


The developing teen

As teenagers develop towards adulthood they go through four key processes.

Thinking: Teenagers are now able to think hypothetically and are much more aware of moral codes of behaviour. Arguments are now becoming more fierce, more prolonged and more frequent.

Emotional: a new sexual identity emerges as does a desire for adult recognition and status. Teenagers are moody, volatile, short tempered, apathetic, withdrawn and they spend more time alone in their bedroom.

Physical: Teenagers experience growth spurts and sweat more, the majority of girls develop breasts and have periods, whilst boys will get deeper voices and have wet dreams. They become clumsy, their appearance becomes important and they eat everything in sight.

Social: Parents are no longer the single most powerful influence on a teenager, their identity is influenced by their peers.

As teenagers go through these processes it feels exciting but also scary and challenging, but for parents it feels as though our emotional and intellectual stability is being severely tested as we wonder where our fun loving child has gone. This is the time when we can feel at our wits end and confused, but this is also the time when our children need support, understanding and encouragement the most.

Some Tips for coping with a teenager

  • Negotiate and compromise - discuss conflict issues when everybody is calm.

  • Admit your mistakes - to help your teenager to change you must be the example.

  • Know their qualities and strengths -try not be overwhelmed by their behaviour, their bad behaviour does not make them a bad person.

  • Listen to them - nothing builds up confidence and self-esteem more than a listening ear.

  • Respect privacy - it helps teens to feel more comfortable, accepted and respected. Remember you don't share all parts of your life with your teen.

  • Be patient - teenagers are trying to find the right balance of behaviours and independence.

  • Be loving - they may be more independent and push you away but they still need your love.

  • Forgive and forget - it's amazing how small disagreements can escalate quickly, leaving everyone bewildered and hurt.

  • Be hopeful - teenagers may drift away for a while but they will come back.

  • Remind yourself what you were like as a teenager- I am sure there were times during your teenage years when you were seen as an alien from another planet!

Above all remember - you survived the terrible twos - you'll survive the torturous teens.

If any of this resonates with you and you feel that you or your teenager could benefit from talking with someone, then please get in touch.


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