Teenagers need love and support from parents at a time when lots of other things in their lives are changing. You can keep your relationship with your teenage child strong through ordinary, everyday activities.
Teenagers, parents and family relationships
Many people think that families become less important to children as they move into the teenage years. But your child needs your family and the support it offers as much as she did when she was younger.
It’s true that family relationships change during adolescence. When your child was young, your role was to nurture and guide him. Now you might be finding that your relationship with your child is becoming more equal.
Most young people and their families have some ups and downs during these years, but things usually improve by late adolescence as children become more mature. And family relationships tend to stay strong right through.
For teenagers, parents and families are a source of care and emotional support. Families give teenagers practical, financial and material help. And most teenagers still want to spend time with their families, sharing ideas and having fun.
It’s normal for teenagers to be moody or seem uncommunicative, but they still need you. Your child still loves you and wants you to be involved in her life, even though at times her attitude, behaviour or body language might seem to say she doesn’t.
Family is the most important thing to me. They’re my own support system. Everybody thinks friends are more important, but they’re not. Friends are great, but they’ll come and go. Family is always there.
– Brianna, teenager
Why your teenage child needs you
Adolescence can be a difficult time – your child is going through rapid physical changes as well as emotional ups and downs. Young people aren’t always sure where they fit, and they’re still trying to work it out. Adolescence can also be a time when peer influences and relationships can cause you and your child some stress.
Supporting each other can be vital to getting through these challenges.
During this time your family is still a secure emotional base where your child feels loved and accepted, no matter what’s going on in the rest of his life. Your family can build and support your child’s confidence, self-belief, optimism and identity.
When your family sets rules, boundaries and standards of behaviour, you give your child a sense of consistency and predictability.
And believe it or not, your life experiences and knowledge can be really useful to your child – she just might not always want you to know that!
Supportive and close family relationships protect your child from risky behaviour like alcohol and other drug use, and problems like depression. Your support and interest in what your child is doing at school can boost his desire to do well academically too.
Strong family relationships can go a long way towards helping your child grow into a well-adjusted, considerate and caring adult.
Video Teens talk: relationships with parents
In this video, teens talk about relationships with parents. They talk about some issues that can cause tension between teenagers and parents: homework, sibling fights, boundaries and trust. Some teenagers feel their parents need to show more trust and give them more independence, but they also know that parents are mostly just concerned for their safety. These teenagers offer tips for parents on supporting teenagers.
Knowing what your child is doing and being available to her can mean fewer teenage behaviour problems. Being available could be as simple as just being in the kitchen when your child is in her room, so she knows she can talk to you if she wants to. Teenagers benefit from knowing that support is available, even though they might not be using it.
Building positive family relationships with teenagers: tips
The ordinary, everyday things that families do together can help build and sustain strong relationships with teenagers. These tips might help you and your family.
Regular family meals are a great chance for everyone to chat about their day, or about interesting stuff that’s going on or coming up. If you encourage everyone to have a say, no-one will feel they’re being put on the spot to talk. Also, many families find that meals are more enjoyable when the TV isn’t invited and when mobile phones and tablets are switched off!
Try setting aside time for fun family outings – you could all take turns choosing activities. A relaxing holiday or weekend away together as a family can also build togetherness. Our article on teenagers and free time has more ideas for things you can do as a family.
One-on-one time with your child gives you the chance to stay connected and enjoy each other’s company. It can also be a chance to share thoughts and feelings. If you can, try to find opportunities for each parent to have this time with your child.
Celebrate your child’s accomplishments
Celebrating your child’s accomplishments, sharing his disappointments, and supporting his hobbies helps your child know you’re interested in him. You don’t have to make a big deal of this – sometimes it’s just a matter of showing up to watch your child play sport or music, or giving him a lift to extracurricular activities.
Family traditions, routines and rituals can help you and your child set aside regular dates and special times. For example, you might have a movie night together, a favourite meal or cooking session on a particular night, a family games afternoon or an evening walk together.
Agreed household responsibilities give children and teenagers the sense that they’re making an important contribution to family life. These could be things like chores, shopping or helping older or younger members of the family.
Agreed-on rules, limits and consequences give teenagers a sense of security, structure and predictability. They help your child know what standards apply in your family, and what will happen if she pushes the boundaries.
Family meetings can help to solve problems. They give everyone a chance to be heard and be part of working out a solution.
If you feel that your family really isn’t connecting, you might find a family counsellor or other family support service helpful.
Video Family meetings: how and why they work
This short video demonstration shows how family meetings can help you and your children spend time together, plan activities and catch up on what’s going on for everyone. Family meetings are also a great way for families to talk about upcoming events and changes to family life.
Our Talking to Teens interactive guide
explores some common parent and teenager situations. For example, you can see how different approaches to staying connected can get different results.