I am Finding it Hard to Cope With Parenting my Preteen/Teenager

By Laura Herman and Robyn Saffer, Thinking-Together About Parenting Teens.

Many of us can feel rejected and hurt when our child changes and pushes us away. They once hung onto our every word and now they roll their eyes whenever you try to give them advice. You might remember a time when they laughed at your jokes and now, they look at you in a way that seems to communicate “you’re pathetic.”  You are not alone; it is as if adolescents are given a manual on how to upset their parents/guardians. Some of you will be able to shrug your shoulders and think “it’s just a phase”, many of you will at times feel upset about parenting teenagers and might question whether you will ever have a good relationship with your child again.

Those of you with more than one child, probably find yourself saying “I brought them all up the same, how come one hasn’t given me much trouble and the other one gives me sleepless nights?” Sometimes parents/guardians tell us they are worried they are doing something wrong when parenting their teenager, or that there is something wrong with their preteen/teenager.

Common parenting fears

No two children are the same.  Sometimes one child in a family is more challenging than another.  It isn’t helpful to compare your children to each other and it certainly isn’t helpful to compare your child to someone else’s child. We are all different, we all have different styles of parenting teenagers and we all have our own experiences that will influence how we parent. Many people look on social media and are taken in by the illusion of other peoples’ “perfect families”.

A modern-day dilemma is that many parents/guardians want to be best friends/mates with their preteens/teenagers whilst expecting their respect. We can be scared we are doing something wrong when a teenager is confrontational, when actually perhaps your life with your teenager is perfectly normal.  We are not saying that you can’t get along with your teenagers, or have to be strict and unapproachable, but there absolutely needs to be boundaries so that your teenagers feel safe and knows what is unacceptable. We need to be able to accept that our teenagers will hate us sometimes.

For some parents/guardians, who had bad experiences with their own parents, it is particularly difficult to know when to hold boundaries and how to have a good relationship with their children. They want to make sure they parent differently and think they are failing when their adolescent gives them the cold shoulder. Parents can be scared when their adolescent withdraws, that they are repeating the patterns from their own childhood.

Sometimes parents have invested so much in their children they find it particularly difficult when their child pushes away from them. But teenagers are supposed to separate from their parents and find their own identity. You live with your child and often it is said that you know them best. Yet when you have a teenager, you may not always feel like you know them very well at all, because they tend not to talk to you very much and often retreat to their room. Parents can worry about their preteen/teenager and sometimes they don’t need to.

The fact is, your relationship has and will continue to change. This doesn’t mean your relationship has to be bad but it certainly needs renegotiating.

What can I do to get support for myself?

Remember on aeroplanes, you are always advised to give yourself oxygen in an emergency before administering it to your child?  It is really important you look after yourself so that you can be more of the parent you want to be.

None of us are at our best when we are stressed and exhausted. Throw in a challenging teenager and most of us can feel at our wits end. Sometimes our own difficulties and our own emotional temperature affects our parenting style and our relationship with our adolescent. Many of the changes your child is going through are perfectly normal but it might not feel normal to you. Your normality is changing day by day and it can be useful to get some perspective through speaking to other parents/adults or a professional.

Checklist for supporting yourself:

  1. Look after your own mental health.
  2. Do things just for yourself e.g. practice mindfulness, get plenty of fresh air walking in open spaces, exercise and consider yoga or pilates.
  3. Be kind to yourself – focus on what you are achieving and be understanding when things aren’t going well.
  4. Don’t compare yourself to other people or believe everything you are told about their wonderful child – remember the “perfect lives” on social media are not reality.
  5. Get information about an adolescents’ normal development.
  6. Think about whether you have boundaries in place.
  7. Speak to other supportive adults that you trust for guidance, especially if you are parenting alone.
  8. Get support from parenting groups/courses if you need to.
  9. If you are struggling with your child and/or you have your own personal difficulties, get some professional help such as counselling.
  10. If you think your child is struggling and refuses help or even is having their own counselling, it can be helpful for you to attend some counselling sessions yourself.

Sign up for more details about our parenting workshops.

Contact us to discuss providing a workshop in your school.

For helplines and support see: Getting Help

Follow us on Social Media:Facebook Thinking-Together About Parenting Teens Instagram thinking__together