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Being the parent of a teenager

Advice about help for parents and teenagers

Being a teenager

Sometimes it’s easy to forget that while being an adult has all sorts of stresses and strains, being a teenager isn’t always that great either. Their hormones are racing, they are under pressure from friends and the media to fit in, and there is growing pressure from exams and school. These are just some of the issues that lead to the mood swings and emotional outbursts that we commonly associate with teenagers, and can be worth remembering when handling difficult situations with your teen.

Teenage years information for parents

Understanding the teen years – puberty and adolescence

There isn’t an exact age when puberty and adolescence starts. Every young person is different but it usually takes place somewhere between 8 and 14 years. To help parents understand what is happening to their child, it is important to make a distinction between puberty and adolescence.

Most people think of puberty as the development of adult sexual characteristics: breasts, starting periods, pubic hair and facial hair. These are certainly the most visible signs of puberty and the start of adulthood, but young people who are showing physical changes can also be going through other changes that aren’t easily seen from the outside. These are the changes of adolescence.

Teenagers need their friends

As young people develop they start to explore the differences between themselves and their parents. This involves challenging their parents’ ideas and beliefs and spending longer and longer away from them. When they were younger they were happy to spend time with their parents and do things as a family, but as they reach the teenage years they start spending a lot more time with their friends. This can feel quite upsetting to a parent but it is all part of how teenagers develop into adults. They still need their parents to continue to care for them and make them feel safe, but friends begin to play a bigger part in how they understand the world around them. The teenager’s brain is going through big changes too. It is preparing them to be an independent adult and this process takes time and quite a lot of adjustment before everything settles down again. The Mysterious Workings of the Teenage Brain.

Teenagers need privacy

Teenagers need time alone. They are becoming independent and are going through physical changes that they need to be given the space and privacy to explore. They can start to be more concerned about the way they look and may compare themselves with others. Whether it’s lack of self-confidence or just a curiosity about the way their bodies are developing, they need time to sort things out for themselves.

Parents should try not to take it personally if they appear to be shutting them out but try to find ways to support their confidence by listening to them and not dismissing their concerns. This will give them the confidence to find solutions by themselves. Teenagers and Their Bodies.

Teenagers need to be different

‘When she said she wanted to get a tattoo I had to take a deep breath and talk it through with her really calmly while inside I was screaming “No!” It was her way of rebelling and being different from us. I can understand this. I wanted to be different from my parents when I was her age.’ (Dad of 17 year-old, Wellington).

Young people will often start exploring how they look and can become very aware of how they differ from their friends. This can sometimes cause arguments and conflict with parents. As they move towards becoming a young adult, they might want to show the world that they’re growing up as an individual, with their own identity and are no longer an extension of their parents. They may want to adopt different fashion styles that they see in the media, which might include getting a piercing or a tattoo.

Teenagers need boundaries

‘One thing that stands out for me more than any other is ‘boundaries.’ Teenagers really need them. It can feel like hard work putting the boundaries in but I think they actually feel better knowing where they stand and what’s allowed.’ A mother, Wivliescombe.

The truth is that teenagers don’t always make the right choices and they still need parents to show them the way, however grown up they feel.  As they start to develop their independence they will want to make their own choices. A young person who previously had been willing to please their parents may suddenly start rebelling against parental control. This can be a difficult time for families and sometimes it might feel easier to give in to pressure, but teenagers still need their parents to be in charge and not to go along with everything they want.

Here is a short video with ideas about how parents might manage these situations – Discipline for Teenagers.

Teenagers need to be listened to

‘You really need to listen three times as much as you talk!’ A grandparent, Taunton.

Everyone likes to be taken seriously and be listened to. It has a huge impact on how much we value ourselves. In the teenage years, when young people are branching out of childhood and starting to become more adult, they want to have an opportunity to justify what they are doing even if it seems irrational to a parent. It is important that parents show them that their ideas and opinions matter, even if it causes disagreement. Read more about parenting your teen through difficult times.

Teenagers need love

Teenagers still need you to be the loving parent you were when they were little. They may appear to be cool sometimes but they still need your care and attention. Despite their need to be independent and grown-up, they still need their parents around to offer support and guidance.

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