Planning for the teenage years: why it’s a good idea

It’s normal to be apprehensive as your child enters their teenage years. It’s a time of great change for both your child and your relationship with him, and you’ll need to adapt your parenting as you go. But it doesn’t have to be a negative experience for you or your child, especially if you plan ahead.

Thinking ahead: things to consider

Before your child enters the teenage years, you might find it helpful to do some research so you know what kind of things to expect. Learning more about the physical changes and social and emotional changes your child will go through can help you understand other changes in your child’s behaviour and your relationship.

Thinking back to your own adolescence can help you relate to your child. Try to remember what you went through, and how you felt. Use those feelings and experiences when dealing with your child.

Teenage behaviour can be frustrating, but often it’s part of building independence and skills for adulthood. Changing the way you think about teenage behaviour can help. Arguments over day-to-day issues like school problems, housework and screen time can be tough. But they’re also a sign that your child is seeking independence, developing autonomy and confidence, and taking responsibility for herself.

The teenage years aren’t all smooth sailing, and no matter what you do, you won’t be able to avoid some stormy moments. But this stage of your child’s life won’t last forever. Keep in mind that turmoil during the teenage years is a side effect of its more important purpose – transforming your dependent child into a self-sufficient young adult.

It can be a good idea to plan how you’d like to deal with some common issues before they come up. Thinking about how you might respond now is much easier than trying to come up with a reasonable strategy on the spot, especially if it involves a tricky subject.

Encourage independence – in a safe way. Think about how you might do this ahead of time. For example, if your 13-year-old wants to go a movie with friends, you might choose to let him go – but you might also want to set some boundaries so he’s doing it as safely as possible. The following questions might help you both in thinking about boundaries:

  • Who’s your child going with?
  • How is he getting there?
  • Where exactly is he going?
  • What time will he be home?
  • What’s his plan if something goes wrong or changes?

You might find that you sometimes disagree on these boundaries. Our article on problem-solving can help you work together to find a solution that suits you both.

This is the age when you can start using a process called monitoring. This means asking questions like those above. It can be easier to introduce monitoring before the teenage years arrive – this will help your child get used to it. It can also lower the chance that your teenager will resist monitoring.

Teenagers are obviously more independent than toddlers, but you still need to set limits and enforce rules, and you have the right to expect reasonable behaviour. Tell your child what you expect and what will happen if she doesn’t meet your expectations.

Negotiation, communication and natural consequences might play a larger part in your discipline toolbox now than they did in the early years. Children benefit from parents who are authoritative – that is, parents who are firm about limits, but also warm and accepting of their child’s need to be an individual.

A strong, positive relationship with your child can be like a bank account – if you’ve put enough savings in the bank early on, you won’t have to go into the red during challenging times. It can help to focus on having open communication, a strong connection, mutual respect and trust.

Social media and mobile phones are an important part of most teenagers’ social lives. They use them to let friends know what they’re doing and how they’re feeling. It can help to think ahead about what guidelines you might negotiate for safe and responsible use of social networking sites and mobile phones.

Looking after yourself

How you parent during these years depends on more than your child and how you interact with him. How you feel about what’s happening in your own life matters too. Your own wellbeing, feelings of satisfaction and your other relationships can influence how you relate to your child.

If you’d like to talk to someone about how you’re feeling or your relationships, there are lots of options. You might like to read our services and support nutshell for ideas on where to start.

Getting help

If you or your child get distressed or upset from constant conflict, or you’re concerned about other issues such as depression, anxiety, violence or abuse, it’s best to seek personal advice from a psychologist or counsellor. Your local doctor will be able to help you find someone, or your child’s school might be able to recommend someone for you and your child to talk to.

If you have a child with autism spectrum disorder, you might have a few more things to consider when you’re planning for the teenage years. You could start by having a look at some of our articles on teenagers with ASDself-identity and self-esteem, getting ready for puberty, social skills, social and recreational activities and volunteering and employment.