About parenting teenagers
Now that you’re raising a teenage child, 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 child. Now your child is older and looking after themselves more and more. But your child still needs your support.
This is because the onset of puberty can bring big changes for your child. You might need to support your child through social and emotional changes, friendship choices, adolescent ups and downs, romantic relationships and sexual feelings, mental health and wellbeing challenges, school problems and more.
Also, your child might be involved in a wide range of social and extracurricular activities. This might mean you need to take them from one thing to another or prepare them for getting around by themselves.
It’s all about helping your child develop independence on their journey to young adulthood.
Raising teenagers is a big and important job, so it’s just 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, so that you’re better able to deal with challenging times.
Looking after yourself is worth it – it’s good for you and good for your teenage child.
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 as well as friends are important for your child’s healthy social and emotional development.
Making time for yourself while parenting teenagers
You might be finding that juggling your child’s needs with your work and other commitments is leaving you with little time to yourself. But time for yourself is important because it gives you more energy and enthusiasm for the time you spend with your child.
Here are suggestions for making time in a busy family schedule.
If you have a partner, talk together about how you can manage household chores as a family.
You might look at giving your child more responsibility for jobs around the house. Negotiating with your child about chores can be a good idea. For example, you could allow your child to pick 1-2 chores they prefer.
There are a couple of benefits here. Jobs get shared around more, and your child gets some practice for independent living – for example, learning to cook simple meals, doing the washing up or washing clothes.
Family routines and schedules
A weekly family routine or schedule can help you keep on top of family commitments and household tasks and also make time for yourself. That’s because routines and schedules can help your family get through tasks more efficiently, which frees up time for more enjoyable things.
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 children are involved in the same activities as your child.
This might give you a few more hours in your week, with the bonus of helping you build new friendships and support networks.
Keeping your relationship strong while parenting teenagers
For parents with partners, nurturing your relationship is important because it helps you to raise your child as a team. And when you work as a team with your partner, you’re likely to feel happier, more confident and more satisfied with your parenting and your family life. It also sets a good example for your child.
Here are suggestions from parents about keeping partner relationships strong while parenting teenagers:
- Talk together about your feelings and experiences as the parents of a teenage child, making sure to really listen to what each other is saying.
- 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 just for yourselves each week. This could be an after-dinner walk together, a regular coffee date, a trip to the movies or whatever you enjoy as a couple.
- Make time for fun experiences as a couple. For example, if your child is old enough, they might be able to spend the weekend at a friend’s house or with grandparents while you have a mini-break.
- Spend time together at home. For example, you could have a special dinner, watch a TV show, play cards, or put on your favourite music while your child is in their room.
It’s normal for family life with teenagers to have its ups and downs. But if you and your partner find you’re seriously struggling at any stage, it’s a very good idea to seek help from friends and family, or speak to your GP or a relationships counsellor for advice.
Looking after your wellbeing while parenting teenagers
Looking after your emotional wellbeing can help you navigate some of the challenges of raising teenagers.
Keeping things in perspective can help with this. For example, if you’re having an argument with your child, you could try asking yourself, ‘Do we really need to fight about this? Can I let this one go?’ When you let go of small issues, you save your energy for more important issues like your child’s health, safety and wellbeing.
Looking for positives can help with your emotional wellbeing too. 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.
Activities like mindfulness, muscle relaxation and breathing exercises can help you learn to calm down and relax. This is good for your wellbeing generally, and it can also be useful in challenging situations. For example, these strategies can help you manage natural and common emotions like stress, anxiety and even anger in healthy ways.
Family rituals can build family togetherness and wellbeing. They can help you all feel positive about your family relationships. And rituals help teenagers feel loved and part of the family. No matter how bored they might seem, teenagers find rituals comforting. Examples might include a regular Sunday night dinner, regular family outings or religious ceremonies.
Self-compassion helps you be kind to yourself as you navigate the challenges of raising teenagers. Self-compassion is good for you, because it reduces stress and anxiety. And it’s good for your child, because you can better support your child when you’re feeling good yourself. Self-compassion also sets a great example for your child.
Staying physically healthy and well while parenting teenagers
Your physical health is important to your ability to give your child what they need to thrive. For good physical health, you’ll need to look after yourself.
Physical activity is important for many parts of your life, and 30 minutes a day is recommended to help you stay physically healthy. Physical activity is good for mental wellbeing too. 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 join a sports team or ask friends if they want to play tennis or go for a bike ride.
Healthy eating gives you the energy you need during the day and keeps your body nourished so that it runs at its peak. But eating well can be difficult when you’re busy. It helps to have simple, healthy food on hand, like fresh vegetables cut up ready to eat with dips, fruit, yoghurt and wholegrain bread.
When you’re raising teenagers, it’s important to make sure you’re meeting your own needs, as well as the needs of your family. Raising teenagers is an important job, and looking after yourself helps you do it well.