Being a teenager is tough. We’ve all been there. However, I’m starting to suspect that being the parent of a teenager may be tougher.
As a parent it can be hard to know what to do at the best of times.
What do we do when…
They are two and bite another child?
They are four and refuse to eat vegetables?
They are six and develop separation anxiety?
And on it goes.
We question every parenting decision we make as every developmental stage presents new challenges.
Then it comes to the teenage years. Our child becomes practically a stranger as hormones and external influences sway them while they fight to find their place in the world.
What do we do? Do we step back and give them space or do we continue to be as involved in their lives as we have always been?
Research has finally given us the answer: We stay involved!
A Wall Street Journal article outlines the phases of adolescence and what teenagers need from their parents at each step of the way – all according to research.
Here is a brief summary:
Kids this age regress slightly in relation to memory and spatial learning so will benefit from support in developing organisational skills and decision- making. Think checklists, electronic reminders, routines to help with staying organised. Pros and cons lists can be a helpful way of helping your child reach difficult decisions.
Immature social skills, mood swings and an impaired stress response can have a huge impact on young teenagers. Helping your child develop coping strategies to deal with stressful situations at this stage will help set up healthy patterns for life. Meditation, exercise and listening to music are all techniques recommended by psychologists that are easy for parents to model and teach.
Teaching healthy friendship skills is also recommended at this stage (if not before).
This is the peak time for teens to exhibit risk-taking behaviours. This is thanks to the brain’s chemistry at this stage of development. Having healthy, stable friendships is a protective factor during this time. Having a close relationship with parents where they feel respected and are able to talk through problems is also very important.
Social skills are still maturing, as are executive functioning skills such as problem solving and planning. However, the parts of the brain responsible for judgement and decision-making are developed enough to help balance emotions and risky behaviour.
One interesting thing to note was that across ALL stages of adolescence there was strong evidence that having warm, supportive parents had positive benefits for a child’s emotional and social development. Knowing what is happening in their life and staying emotionally connected with your teen can benefit them greatly.
Essentially, our kids need our guidance, love and support no matter what age!