Navigating the teen years: A guide for parents

Being a parent is hard and it can feel even harder when your child hits their teen and preteen years. You may find yourself facing challenges you might not have prepared for.


So, here are some tips to help you find your way through these years in one piece (you and them!).

Be prepared for some changes

Puberty changes pretty much every aspect of your child’s life; physical, emotional, and social. And while these changes happen quickly, they don’t all happen at the same time (although it may feel like it to you!). Remember that these changes are healthy and perfectly natural; after all, you have been through this and made it through in one piece!

Also, remember that their brains are still under construction. Their thinking and behaviour can seem quite mature sometimes, but at other times their behaviour is illogical, impulsive or emotional. Our frontal cortex (the part of the brain used for reasoning) is the last area to develop. A teenager's developing brain does not function in the way we may expect an adult brain would.

Communication is key

Be open and honest with them and if you don’t know the answers straight away, tell them. When you and your child have mutual trust, your communication will be better. They will also be more likely to come to you when they need help. Show them you're interested in what’s going on in their life and be aware of what they're doing and how they’re behaving. This makes it easier to spot changes that might signal a problem.

Set boundaries

Young people need boundaries that are clear, consistent, reasonable and realistic. Let them have input into them; that way, they are more likely to stick to them. These can and should change as they get older. You can work out rules and routines with them too – for example;

  • you text me when you get home from school
  • we have regular family dinners 
  • there is a set time to come home on Saturday nights 

Set the expectations of what you need to know... for example, where they're going, who they’ll be with and what time they will return.

Be supportive

They still need you to be there for them (even though it doesn’t always feel like it). They need you to step in and ‘fix’ much less than you might think. Teens do much better when we back off and let them do things for themselves – let them make those mistakes and do all the things we did when we were their age. Drop the need to lecture or fix and replace it with listening and asking questions so you can understand. 

Trust them

You don’t have to agree with everything they do but you should respect their decisions. They need to know that you trust them in their journey and that you know they are capable of working things out.

Trust in their journey. Let them know that you have confidence in them and that you know they are capable. If they need help, they need to know that they can come to you and that you will give them the help they need, without judgement. 

Respect their privacy

Do not:

  • listen to phone conversations 
  • go through their room or drawers
  • read their diary or emails
  • ‘friend’ them on social media if they don’t want you to
  • call to check on them all the time

Look after yourself

These can be challenging times, but remember to notice the good bits because there will be plenty. Young people are funny and bright and great fun to be around.

This is a transition period for them, and for you, as their parent. They don’t need you to be perfect, they just need you to be you. When you put all your energy and effort into being the ‘perfect’ parent, it’s too much and not making you or your children happy. 

Remember that help is out there

Navigating this time in your child’s life can be challenging and it can also be rewarding. You don’t have to work this out alone.

  • Read books, articles, and blog posts so you can learn what to expect and how you can support your child in the way they need.
  • Talk to other parents - they can be a great source of support.
  • Seek professional help if you need it.

I work online with parents and carers to help them feel more confident in their parenting. If you are struggling to cope with how your child is behaving and how that is making you feel – check out my profile to learn more about how we can work together and get in touch with me by clicking the ‘email me’ button below.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Seaford, East Sussex, BN25
Written by Jennifer Warwick, MSc Psych, BACP Registered | Counsellor and Parenting Expert
Seaford, East Sussex, BN25

I am a BACP registered counsellor working online. I work with people who struggle to balance work, home and family life. People who are constantly rushing, looking after others over themselves and are exhausted as a result. I specialise in relationships, family issues and parenting teens and tweens. Contact me for an introductory chat by phone.

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