The growing pains of adolescence – navigating the teenage years

At Parentline, we consistently receive calls asking for support in several areas: parents dealing with unruly teens and their high-risk behaviour; parents who feel like they have lost their connection with their child; and parents who just feel rejected. These are all normal events and are some of the growing pains of adolescence – those tricky teenage years. Remember, every child is different; they will each grow at different rates and have different views of the world they live in.

At Parentline, we can help you, the parents, help your teenagers navigate this period by offering individual guidance and support—there is ‘no one size fits all’ approach. Rather than trying to avoid the issues of this period, we can work with you and help you to understand it better. Adolescence is a pathway to independence. Next to the first few years of life, it’s the biggest period of change we’ll experience in our lives. So many changes are coming on board at this point­—including biological, emotional and social changes.

Your role in adolescence

Adolescence is one big transition period. Teenagers are working out things for themselves, understanding more about what is going on around them and within their bodies. This comes with trying to impress their peers and seeking acknowledgement, which can be the opposite of what you, their parents, are telling them they need to do.

Your role, as a parent, is to ultimately nurture your children, as they grow into independent, resourceful, kind and resilient adults, by giving them the building blocks to help them figure out who they are. You will not always understand their likes, style, friendships groups, and even their career pathways, but that’s ok. Your children may keep secrets from you and they may value their peers’ opinions more. They may engage in high-risk behaviours and choose loyalty to friends over family. They will test the boundaries that you, as their parent, has set.

Some tips to consider:

  • Try to keep your frustration to a minimum and understand that this isn’t a choice. Your teenagers are not doing this to annoy you. This is a biological step in their development.
  • Take a moment to consider why this is tough for you? Do you feel disconnected from your child? Are you sad that you aren’t the most important person in their life right now?
  • Once you take this moment to understand how it is affecting you, ask yourself whether this is affecting how you are reacting to them.If you understand this, you can connect with them better.
  • Give them support and space for their identity to develop, whilst letting them know you are always there for a chat and a hug.
  • Make them feel as comfortable as they need to be to seek you out when and if they need to. This will be hard if you natural reaction is to do the opposite.
  • Discuss how others might perceive them or their friends if they are different. Help them to understand that being different is ok.
  • Respect their privacy, but let them know that you are there.
  • Encourage them to talk to a trusted adult. If they can’t talk to you, our colleagues at Kids Helpline (for 5-25 year olds) are available 24/7 via WebChat, phone and email, at any time and for any reason.
This will allow them to achieve independence; to know that they can fall, make mistakes, create success and kick goals in the knowledge that you are there for them.

Although this can be an uneasy time in your relationship with your teenagers, know that Parentline is here, 7 days a week, to help and support you in helping and supporting your children.

Call for a chat about anything on 1300 30 1300 or jump online at parentline.com.au for a WebChat. Parentline counsellors are waiting and are here to help.
By Kimberley Harper