If you’re a parent to a teenager you might agree that the teenage years are quite challenging – and I get it. In the years between 13 and 19 children start secondary school, find their independence and go through a whole range of hormones.
Puberty hits and huge developments take place, you morph into a young adult but still have to be bound by rules. The changes are so prominent that even the NHS has a page on “coping with teenagers”.
It reads: “Surges of hormones, combined with body changes, struggling to find an identity, pressures from friends and a developing sense of independence, mean the teenage years are a confusing time for your child.”
So it comes as no surprise that one parent on Mumsnet has asked the vital question - “Does anyone actually enjoy the teen years and like their teenagers?”
Though on the surface the question seems kind of comical, it did get a few parents thinking about their own experiences. Despite the negative connotations that come with teenagers, their answer may surprise you.
In the initial question, the parent clarified that they had come across a few threads where parents sound “bleak” when it comes to raising teenagers. She questions whether she just got lucky with her kids as she seems to be enjoying it.
She said: “I have girls in years 13 and 11 and a boy in year 7 (so he’s not a teen). I love the teen years as their conversations get more relatable, the things they like to do as a family more similar to things I’d choose to do myself, they can help out more, they bring friends over who are fun to talk to. I love spending time with them and am gutted to think my eldest will probably leave for uni this year.
“They aren’t perfect, they can be inconsiderate and overly emotional and my Year 11 is best avoided for the day her period starts. I worry about them much more than I did when they were little and to be honest that’s the big challenge of having teens. Their problems are harder to fix and their mental health is so precious to me but sometimes precarious due to the pressures they put on themselves to do well at school and have good social lives and look good etc - it’s all so much for them to deal with. But on the whole they are a joy.
“This isn’t a boast. I just really love teens and wondered how many others genuinely enjoy this stage. I also don’t want mums of younger kids to only hear how awful teens are, I was worried about these years and I wish I hadn’t wasted time worrying.”
What do other parents think?
Surprisingly, many agreed with the opinion that raising teenagers is pretty great – however they were quick to acknowledge that it’s still probably one of the most challenging phases, but the worries are now different to when they were kids.
One Mumsnetter said: “For me it’s been the hardest phase but by far the most rewarding. Teens are the best.”
Another explained: “My boys are 14 and 17 and I enjoy them the majority of the time, they have their moments and have had a lot of worries with my oldest related to his mental health, but they are mostly respectful and loving, they both still like spending time with me and their dad, and they are extremely loyal to each other.
“Sometimes now when I’m chatting to my 17 year old he’ll say something and I just think to myself - wow, we’re having a real proper adult conversation! Not subject matter, but just his perspective on life being more mature and insightful than what it was even 6 months ago. (he has left school which has made a huge difference).
“I love having their friends around too, so much better than having extra 8 year olds over for “play dates”! My biggest stress is the fact my oldest now drives, and is going in cars with friends who drive. I worry so much every time he’s out, I know I have to find some way of dealing with it. It’s actually one of the hardest things about it, just letting go.”
“Give me a teen over a baby or toddler and day. Yes there are difficulties but my dd got better and better the older she got,” another commented.
What to do if you’re struggling to cope with your teen
“Dealing with a young person who is impacting your life can be very hard to deal with,” says Counselling Directory member Rosalind Miles.
Here’s what the therapist recommends parents who’re struggling with raising a teen might want to try.
Try to remain calm when hostile situations arise
This is, of course, easier said than done, but Miles recommends trying to be as calm as possible when issues with the teen arise and escalate. This is because “reacting emotionally can, unfortunately, escalate the situation”.
Discuss how the behaviour affects you
Sometimes when a teen acts out, we can be quick to admonish their character, rather than their behaviour. If this is happening, Miles recommends parents addresses the behaviour first and foremost.
“For example, you could say, ‘I feel hurt when you use disrespectful language’ rather than, ‘You are a disrespectful person’,” she suggests.
“You can try to express your emotions without blaming or accusing. You have feelings too!”
Finding time to sit down and have a meaningful chat about this might help, so they can perhaps even explore the deeper reasons for this behaviour. But Miles acknowledges it might be hard – and even scary – to instigate this with tensions running so high.
“You could try to let your teen know that they can talk to you about their feelings and concerns without resorting to rudeness,” the therapist suggests. Or, you can suggest they talk to a trusted friend or family member instead.
She urges parents to remember that the teenage years can be particularly difficult, an age which “can be particularly challenging due to hormonal changes and emotional development”.
“Try to be patient and understanding while setting those boundaries,” she adds. “Easy for me to say, I know!”