By Raising Children Network
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Mum and teenaged boy hugginig

It doesn’t matter whether your children are teenagers or toddlers – you still need to look after yourself. When you’re happy, healthy and fit, you’re in good shape for parenting.

Parenting teenagers

Now that your child’s a teenager, the demands on your time and energy are different from when your child was younger.

In the early years, you needed to feed, bath and comfort your little one. Now he’s big and looking after himself more and more. But your child still needs practical help and active involvement from his parents. For example, he might be involved in a wide range of social and extra-curricular activities so you need you to take him from one thing to another. At the same time, you might be working more hours or involved in other activities yourself.

Along with practical demands on your time there might be some new emotional challenges. For example, the onset of puberty can bring feelings of insecurity for your child and worry for you. You might also feel concerned about your child’s social and emotional changes. And then there are the emotional ups and downs of adolescence.

Friends and peers will become more important to your child in these changing years, but this doesn’t mean you’re less important. You still play a big role in your child’s life – and strong relationships with family and friends are both vital for your child’s healthy social and emotional development.

Finding time for you

Parenting a teenager can be hard work, and it’s as important to take good care of yourself now as it was when your child was younger. Looking after your physical and mental wellbeing can help you stay calm and consistent, and deal better with any stress and conflict that comes up.

You might be finding that juggling your child’s needs with your work and other commitments is leaving you with little time to yourself. Here are some suggestions for clearing time in a busy family schedule.

Household responsibilities
If you can, sit down with your partner to talk about how the household work can be managed between you and your children. You might look at giving your children more responsibility for jobs around the house.

Negotiating with your child about chores might help break down any resistance she has to the idea. For example, you could allow her to pick one or two chores she wouldn’t mind doing. There are a couple of benefits here: jobs get shared around more, and your child gets some practice for independent living. For example, she might be interested in learning to cook simple meals or wash and iron clothes.

Family plans and schedules
Having a weekly family schedule might help you keep on top of everyone’s commitments and to also find time for yourself. It can give you the chance to explain to your child that you need time for yourself too. Having this time will give you more energy and enthusiasm for the time you spend with your child.

You can also use a weekly family schedule to plan time for household tasks, like grocery shopping and cooking. Cooking in advance – for example, on the weekends – can take the pressure off at busy times during the week. It can also help you make sure you’ve got something healthy in the fridge or freezer for the whole family to enjoy. 

Support networks
Grandparents, family and friends might be able to spend time with your child to free up some time for you. Or you could organise to share car-pooling and supervision duties with other parents whose teenagers are involved in the same activities as your child. This might give you a few more hours in your week, and have the added bonus of helping you build new friendships and support networks.

Keeping your relationship fresh

For parents with partners, research shows that feeling happy about your relationship and feeling happy with your parenting are strongly related. So nurturing your relationship with your partner is actually a way of nurturing your parenting ability.

Here are some suggestions from parents about keeping partner relationships fresh and strong:

  • Talk about your feelings and experiences as the parents of a teenager together.
  • Show affection, admiration and appreciation for your partner.
  • Spend time talking with your partner – something as simple as making time to discuss your day with each other can be a good idea.
  • Find time for just for the two of you each week. This could be doing all kinds of things – playing sport, going for an after-dinner walk together, having a regular coffee date, playing cards or games, or whatever you enjoy as a couple.
  • Make time for fun experiences as a couple. For example, if your child is old enough, he might be able to spend the weekend at a friend’s house or at grandma’s while you have a mini-break.
  • Spend time together at home. For example, you could make a date to have a special dinner, watch a favourite movie or put on your favourite music while your child’s in his room or has a friend visiting.

Staying happy and healthy

Your physical and mental wellbeing is vital to your ability to keep up with your family. But physical and mental health doesn’t just happen – you have to look after yourself if you want to stay happy and healthy.

Staying positive and keeping things in perspective might help you get through some of the ups and downs of the teenage years. If you’re having a bad day, or a fight with your child, you could try asking yourself, ‘Do we really need to fight about this? Can I just give way on this one?’ When you let go of the small stuff, you save your energy for more important issues such as your child’s health, safety and wellbeing.

Positive self-talk can also help you feel less stressed and happier. For example, if your child offers to help someone out, you might say to yourself, ‘Nice – I’m glad I’ve taught my child to think about others like that’. It’s time to congratulate yourself on all the good work you’ve done to get your child to this stage.

Family rituals  can build family togetherness and wellbeing. No matter how bored they might seem, teenagers also find family rituals comforting. Examples might include a regular Sunday night dinner, religious ceremonies or regular family outings. Rituals help teenagers feel loved and part of the family. They can also help you feel positive about your family relationships.

Physical activity is important for many parts of your life, and 30 minutes a day is what you need to keep you physically and mentally healthy. It could just be a half-hour walk or an exercise class, but if you’ve got more time as your child gets older, you could think about the sports you used to play, or ask a friend if they want to play tennis or go for a bike ride. If you’re looking for something new, you could try relaxing activities such as yoga, meditation or deep-breathing exercises.

It’s important you make sure you’re meeting your own needs, as well as the needs of your family. Remember that a healthy and happy parent is an effective one!
  • Last updated or reviewed 06-05-2011
  • Acknowledgements

    This article was written with help from Cathryn Hunter, research officer at the Australian Institute of Family Studies, and Elly Robinson, Research Fellow at the Australian Institute of Family Studies.