Having a teenage child brings many joys - and sometimes, a lot of stress. Gone are the days of pushing strollers through the neighbourhood, chasing chubby toddlers at the playground, picking out presents at the toy store and planning birthday games and loot bags. In the teenage years, it’s all about watching your young adult endure the perils of adolescence, the stressors of social life, and the quest for greater independence.
The first day of high school is the first major event for your teen child, and is a world away from that morning years ago when you dropped your little one in the Kindergarten yard. You won’t be holding their hand or hugging them goodbye - you will likely be watching them fuss over their first day outfit and head off to school without their doting parent. High school is a whole new ball game, and marks the beginning of a time your child will start to transform into a full-fledged adult.
So how do you react when you see your teen experiencing stress? How do you protect them while also respecting their independence? What can you do as a parent if they start struggling with school? How do you know when your teen is experiencing mental health issues or low self-esteem?
This article will help parents to cope with the challenges of parenting an young adult. Let’s take a closer look at the ways you can help the adolescents in your life get through one of the most challenging transitions in life: the teenage years.
How can you help your child in school? Read our article!
Parenting Teens Through Adolescence
Worrying about your teenage child is natural, but if it keeps you from going to sleep at night you may want to enhance your approach. Thankfully, there are plenty of ways to help your kid learn independence and mature social skills without monitoring their every move. Here are a few tips you can proactively support your child so they are prepared for the challenges of being a teen.
1. Build Trust With Your Teen
Your relationship with your child is one of the most important parts of parenting, and when that relationship is built with trust you can rest easy knowing your child is able to communicate with you because they feel secure with you. Continue to build trust with your teen by showing them that you will support them unconditionally - forgive them when they do wrong as you guide them to do better, advocate for them if they are having troubles in school, and set clear boundaries that enable them to have some privacy. Reward your teen for trustworthy behaviour like coming home on time, running errands for you, doing chores around the house, or taking a part-time job. When you and your teen trust each other, communication lines stay open and you can avoid being overly anxious about your child.
2. Give Your Child Opportunities to Be Independent
One of the best ways to proactively parent your teenager is to enable them to become independent. If possible, provide your child with a private personal space like a bedroom or work area, and make sure all family members respect their privacy. Be as vigilant as you can with their personal tech devices, and remember they will have their own social lives. When they experience social problems in school, help them to solve their own problems and suggest solutions without telling them what to do. Set rules and expectations for personal responsibility around the house, whether it is cooking, cleaning, or even contributing to household expenses through a part time job. If they have a sport or extracurricular activity that they love, encourage your child to take opportunities for travel or competition.
Remember, one of the goals of parenting is to ensure your kids become responsible adults, and they will not learn this when they have a parent hovering over them or tidying up after them constantly.
Learn all about choosing extracurricular activities for your child.
3. Be Aware of Warning Signs
Teens may want to keep parts of their life private, so be aware of the signs that show your teen is in trouble. If you notice your child is showing rapid changes in their personality, appears sad or tired frequently, or if teachers notify you that your child’s grades are dropping, you may need to intervene. Talk to your child supportively and frankly about what you are seeing, and why you are concerned. Speak to your teen’s teachers, principal, or the school guidance counselor to find out if there is anything happening in school - there may be bullying or friendship issues that are being played out in the school environment. Remember that the internet can be a source of social anxiety and bullying - so talk to your child or make sure they have the skills and knowledge to be critically aware of who or what they may be engaging with online. Remember that as a parent you are not alone: if your teen is in trouble, there are numerous community and health supports you can access to help you help your child.
Ways to Help Your Teen in High School
We all remember our own experiences of high school - whether good, or bad, we can likely all recall some challenging moments socially and perhaps even the awkwardness of puberty. While your child’s experience will be much different from your own (thanks to the internet and social media), there are plenty of things you can do to help your child feel confident at school.
Let’s start with academics. What are your child’s post-secondary goals? Teach them how to back plan to their goals, helping them to choose which course pathways will lead them to having the strongest program applications. Enlist the help of a guidance counselor or support teacher if possible. When you have established a working set of goals (that can of course also be changed or tweaked) it will be much easier to help your child academically, whether it is planning experiences to enrich their learning.
If academics are a main concern for your child, you can support them by getting them a tutor that can support them in their school work. For teens, having a tutor can be critical to getting the marks needed to apply for a college or university. A tutor can help your child understand challenging academic concepts and help them practice math and writing skills. Regular tutoring can also help teens develop stronger learning skills, and help them master concepts they might not have been able to understand working on their own. Check out sites like Superprof for a tutor near you!
Social life is a major part of high school, and you can help your child have a healthy social life by modeling positive relationships and encouraging your teen to make positive connections with others. Encourage your teen to join a club or sport at school, and support them by driving them to practices, rehearsals, and games. If your teen is shy or introverted, accept their social preferences and support their interests.
Bullying is an unfortunate but common part of the high school experience, and if you learn that your child is being bullied at school show them how they can respond assertively, stay calm, or simply ignore the bully. Should the situation escalate and the bully becomes physically threatening, be sure to involve school staff to ensure that situation doesn’t escalate.
What to Do When Your Teen is Stressed
If your teen looks stressed about school, is having sleep problems, or seems depressed or anxious, support them by encouraging them to talk or bring them to a family doctor so you can get a referral to the right health professional. Find out the cause of their behaviour and work with your teen to solve the problem they are facing.
Teach your child to cope with stress by showing them self-care and perhaps even modelling the healthy ways you blow off steam. This includes establishing a bedtime that will enable them to get the right amount of sleep, setting routines that help them to feel organized and secure. Monitor them regularly for signs of self harm or suicidal thoughts - should you see anything indicative of extreme behaviour, seek professional mental health services.
Read our tips on supporting your child in school.
Parenting Teenagers is Not Always Easy
While you don’t have to deal with diapers, teen behaviour can be challenging. Teens must deal with academic and social stress unlike anything they dealt with in Elementary school, and are prone to unhealthy lifestyle choices as they enter an age where alcohol and drugs may be an issue. Add peer pressure, the pressure to get good grades, bullies, and social media, and you may wonder how you will get through these difficult high school years.
Be confident in your abilities as a parent to listen to your child and build trust with them. Support them when they need help and seek the assistance of health professionals if needed. If they have academic struggles in school, invest time into helping them with their homework or recruit the help of a tutor. And remember that for all your efforts you will soon have a responsible, healthy, and ambitious adult that will be ready to pursue their dreams!