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Parenting teenagers

Parenting teenagers can be daunting (and you thought toddlers was bad). And why is it so tricky? Well, it's mostly because the raison d'etre of adolescence is to break free - to deconstruct your parents, and (naturally) to find them wanting.

By Mumsnet HQ | Last updated Sep 20, 2023

Worried Teen Girl

Parenting teens: by subject

None of us can stay tied to the apron strings for ever - you didn't, I didn't, and our kids won't either. Growing up is about learning to live without your mum and dad, and unfortunately for us that means looking at mum and dad very critically, while desperately seeking new (and better) ways of doing things for themselves.

The tragedy for us, of course, is that while their purpose in life is to learn to live without us, our purpose in life is to go on being needed. We're wired to care, while they're wired to move on.

Because of all this, conflict is an almost inevitable part of parenting an adolescent. Conflict is inevitable - healthy, even - because through conflict comes growth, and that realignment of ideas and outlook that being a teenager is fundamentally about.

But however aware you are of the theory, the practice of living with teenagers is almost inevitably going to be a rollercoaster ride. Teenagers - not any teenager, of course, but your teenager - will plunge you to depths you never thought existed before. He, or she, has the potential to make you angrier than you ever imagined you could be, more depressed than you could have contemplated, and (this more than anything) more frustrated than you'd have believed possible.

Is there an upside? Well, happily, yes there is. Teenagers are hard work - and anyone who tells you otherwise is either lying, or isn't doing the job of raising them very thoroughly. But they are also, at times, funnier, noisier, more fulfilling and more exacting than any other experience.

So what is your role as a parent to teenagers?

The vital thing to know about parenting teenagers is this: they still need us, their mums (and dads). They're learning to live without us, but as they travel down that path - whisper it where you will - they actually need us more than ever. In the long term, naturally, they will learn to do everything they need to do without us; but right now, in the learning phase, we have a tremendous influence to bring to bear, and a huge amount to offer.

Chat to other parents in our Talk topics

While adolescents might pretend for all they're worth that they don't give a fig for what you or their dad thinks about anything, the truth is that they do give a fig - in fact, they give several hundred. Don't expect them ever to admit to it (probably, they don't even know themselves how much they care about what you think) but knowing it is fundamental to everything you do as a parent.

And, of course, if it's getting a bit much, share your parenting teens travails on Talk.