Being a teenager
Surges of hormones, combined with body changes, struggling to find an identity, pressures from friends and a developing sense of independence. This all makes the teenage years a confusing time for your child. They can become distant, want more time alone or with friends, feel misunderstood, reject your attempts to talk or show affection or appear bad-tempered and moody.
Teenage years information for parents gives guidance on where to go if things get hard.
There is also health information for young people, who may want to find out more, but are too embarrassed to ask.
Understanding the teen years - puberty and adolescence
There isn’t an exact age when puberty and adolescence start. 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 children, 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.
The teenager’s brain is going through big changes too. It is preparing them to be independent adults and this process takes time and quite a lot of adjustment before everything settles down again. It can be a confusing time too, as they navigate life, which not only includes friendships, growing up and social media. It can also be a tricky time for their mental health. There are online toolkits to help, which should be accessed sooner rather than later. One of the toolkits is available from Young Minds, with young people getting help and support from Kooth.
As a child develops into an adolescent, they will explore their own identity and may want to develop their own sense of style. This may include a piercing or a tattoo. You can find guidance and laws on tattoos and piercing here.
There are also some good resources for parents on the family lives website.
Teenagers need boundaries
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.
Discipline for Teenagers is a short video with ideas about how parents might manage these situations.
Teenagers need to be listened to
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.
You can find a Parents Survival Guide on the Young Minds website
One of the things that families often ask is about support around sexuality. We have a great organisation called 2BU Somerset which offers advice to parents, teachers and young people.
Drug awareness and safety is another topic that has changed over the years and as parents and young people, we need to learn more about them.
There are some really good resources available.
- Young Minds have resources on its website which are aimed at young people.
- NSPCC have resources for adults on how to start a conversation about drugs and alcohol with their young person.