Parenting and the Teenage Years: A Parent’s Survival Guide

September 13, 2010

As parents, we try hard to understand our teenagers, but oftentimes we seem at a loss and it can be very stressful. Parenting is a difficult job in the best of circumstances. If you add to that a child who is experiencing some extra problems, you might feel especially helpless and hopeless. We try to help our kids navigate the transition from childhood to adolescence as best we know how. Sometimes we do it really well, and other times we make mistakes. One mistake that we parents often make is that we forget we are human and have feelings, feelings that can get hurt by our children. We often forget to take time out for ourselves, to get support, to reenergize and rejuvenate. The following are some suggestions that might help you survive this turbulent time.

Be good to yourself

Many parents feel that they must focus all their attention on their children, especially if their child is having some difficulties that require extra attention. However, when parents do this they often experience burnout and decreased energy. While it’s important to help your child, you should also try to take good care of yourself and get the time & space you need to reduce your own stress:

  • Set aside quiet time to do nothing (or something very relaxing).
  • Exercise- a walk is good for mind, body and soul.
  • Read.
  • Spend time with a good friend (especially one who makes you laugh).
  • Take yourself out for a treat (coffee, ice cream, etc) – slow down and savor it.

Nourish your spirit

Use your thoughts/feelings about God, spirituality and/or the natural order of things to remind yourself that you will survive this challenging time. It’s helpful to remember that “this too shall pass.”

  • Take time to go within- set aside regular time to meditate, pray or write in a journal.
  • Practice daily gratitude. Studies have shown that writing a daily list of “5 good things” (big or small) increases happiness and resilience.
  • When stress or worry become overwhelming, find a quiet space to breathe deeply and get centered.

Take time out for you and your partner

One of the most stabilizing things for children is seeing their parents be content in their relationship. Taking time to focus on your relationship is not only a gift to yourself and your partner, it’s a gift to your children as well.

  • Set aside regular times to be alone with your partner.
  • Get out of the house and try a new activity together, or
  • Stay in and create a romantic atmosphere: light candles, play your favorite music.
  • Cook a meal together.

Don’t isolate

Oftentimes we feel like we’re the only ones going through the challenges we face with our teens (surely, others don’t have it this bad, right?.. wrong!).

  • Seek out a positive support system – in person or online – you can easily find parents of teens with whom to exchange stories and ideas.
  • Reach out to other parents in your community – whether it’s a one-on-one coffee date with another parent or meeting with a group of parents (after a school event or a sport).
  • Write a letter or e-mail to a friend and share your struggles – let them into your life and share what’s happening and how you’re feeling.
  • Find a parents support group, especially if your child is experiencing a specific problem (you can do an online search).
  • And if necessary, seek out a good therapist for yourself and/or your family. Find someone who will help you explore what you are experiencing and help you cope.

Ray Fisher, LCSW, s a Senior Staff Therapist in Council for Relationships’ University City office and can be reached at 215-382-6680 ext. 4274.