As your child gets older, it’s still important to look after yourself as a parent. When you’re healthy and fit, you’re in good shape for parenting teenagers.
About parenting teenagers
Now that your child is a teenager, the demands on your time and energy are different from when your child was younger.
In the early years, you needed to feed, bathe and comfort your little one. Now she’s older and looking after herself more and more. But your child still needs your practical help and active involvement.
For example, your child might be involved in a wide range of social and extracurricular activities so you need to take him from one thing to another. At the same time, you might be working more hours or involved in other activities yourself.
Along with practical demands on your time, there might be some new emotional challenges. For example, the onset of puberty can bring feelings of insecurity for your child and worry for you. You might also feel concerned about your child’s social and emotional changes and friendship choices. And then there are the emotional ups and downs of adolescence.
So parenting teenagers can sometimes be hard work, which means that 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, and deal better with any stress and conflict that come up.
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 both family and friends are vital for your child’s healthy social and emotional development.
Finding 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. Here are some suggestions for clearing 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 might help break down any resistance to the idea. For example, you could allow your child to pick one or two chores she wouldn’t mind doing.
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 plans and schedules
Having a weekly family schedule might help you keep on top of everyone’s commitments and also find time for yourself. It can give you the chance to explain to your child that you need time for yourself too. Having this time will give you more energy and enthusiasm for the time you spend with your child.
You can also use a weekly family schedule to plan time for household tasks, like grocery shopping and cooking. Cooking in advance – for example, on the weekends – can take the pressure off at busy times during the week. It can also help you make sure you’ve got something healthy in the fridge or freezer for the whole family to enjoy.
Grandparents, family and friends might be able to spend time with your child to free up some time for you. Or you could organize 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, and have the added bonus of helping you build new friendships and support networks.
Family meetings can help you and your children spend time together, plan activities and catch up on what’s going on for everyone. Family meetings are also a great way for families to talk about upcoming events and changes to family life.
Keeping your relationship strong while parenting teenagers
For parents with partners, keeping your relationship strong is important. Nurturing your relationship with your partner helps you to be the best you can be as a parenting team.
Here are some 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 for just for the two of you each week. This could be doing all kinds of things – playing a sport, going for an after-dinner walk together, having a regular coffee date, playing cards or games, or whatever you enjoy as a couple.
- Make time for fun experiences as a couple. For example, if your child is old enough, he 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 make a date to have a special dinner, watch a favourite movie or put on your favourite music while your child is in her room or has a friend visiting.
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 for advice.
Staying healthy and well
Your physical and mental wellbeing is vital to your ability to keep up with your family. But physical and mental health doesn’t just happen – you have to look after yourself.
Staying positive and keeping things in perspective might help you get through some of the ups and downs of parenting teenagers. If you’re having a bad day, or a fight 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 the small issues, you save your energy for more important issues like your child’s health, safety and wellbeing.
Positive self-talk can also help you feel less stressed and happier. 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.
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.
Physical activity is important for many parts of your life, and 30 minutes a day is what you need to stay physically and mentally healthy. 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 think about the sports you used to play, or ask friends if they want to play tennis or go for a bike ride.
If you’re looking for something new, you could try relaxing activities like yoga, meditation, mindfulness, muscle relaxation or deep breathing exercises.
When you’re parenting teenagers, it’s important to make sure you’re meeting your own needs, as well as the needs of your family. A healthy parent is an effective one!
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