Parenting adolescents

Written by Roni Collyer, Family Support Practitioner at Very Special Kids  

Adolescence is a life stage characterised by intense change; it is the transition between childhood and adulthood. While there is not one ‘correct’ way to parent young people, the following suggestions might help foster understanding and communication with your adolescent child:

  • Acknowledge your adolescent’s thoughts and feelings. It’s important for young people to express their emotions in ways that feel comfortable to them. Your adolescent might want to talk to you, a friend, counsellor or prefer privacy: let your young person lead conversations about feelings. Remember that if it seems they aren’t open to support, it doesn’t mean they don’t care.
  • Be available to your adolescent child; be consistent and make time to talk about how they might be feeling and answer questions. Demonstrate your genuine interest and support by checking in regularly. Adolescents often experience a range of emotions and shift between moods quickly. If your child doesn’t accept support, try to be understanding of this and continue to be available.
  • Remember that young people value honesty; try to include them in decision making when possible, or make time to subsequently explain any choices which impact your adolescent child. This helps young people feel that their thoughts are important and appreciated within the family. When given an opportunity to feel heard, young people will often be able to identify their own solutions to problems they are experiencing.
  • Peer relationships are an importance source of support for young people. Remember that your child may not want to speak with you about how they’re feeling, but prefer to talk to a trusted friend instead. Some adolescents may not know anyone else who has a sibling with a life-limiting illness, and may feel isolated in this experience. It might be helpful to connect your child with other young people who know what it’s like.
  • If you notice your adolescent child is withdrawn or distressed for an extended period of time, seek additional support.