Coping with teen years is parents’ toughest task

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All stages of parenting have their ups and downs, but trying to handle a wayward teenager can be one of the toughest battles.

Research by relationship support organisation Relate shows that 15 per cent of parents feel their teenagers’ behaviour is sometimes, often or always ‘out of control’ and around one in 10 (11 per cent) aren’t confident dealing with their teens in difficult situations.

‘Lots of teens test parents’ boundaries, and when things get tough it can lead to real problems for families,’ says Ruth Sutherland, Relate’s chief executive.

‘Every teenager’s different, but problems can include getting into trouble at school, misusing alcohol or drugs, depression or self-harm.

‘It can be really hard to address these issues, but if a parent suspects all is not well then getting help early is crucial to try and prevent problems getting worse.’

Relate has launched a free online service (relatefor for parents who are worried about their teens.

‘Healthy relationships are crucial to the wellbeing of both individuals and society as a whole,’ says Sutherland.

‘That’s why we want to help as many parents as possible understand their teenagers better, in order to build and maintain strong relationships, reducing strain on the whole family.’

The Relate poll also found almost one in five parents (19 per cent) weren’t confident they knew what was going on in their teen’s life, and a third felt they didn’t have enough time to spend with them.

When asked what they thought was the biggest cause of problems for teenagers, a third blamed bad parenting and 20 per cent said it was teens falling in with the wrong group of friends.

However, when asked the same questions about their own child, only two per cent blamed bad parenting, with 33 per cent saying it was down to being in the wrong crowd.

Chris Sherwood, Relate’s director of policy and external affairs, points out that, as well as parents trying to remember what they felt like as teenagers, it’s important to think about what it’s like to grow up today,.

While the internet brings opportunities, it also means new threats and concerns with cyberbullying.

‘Understand what’s going on in their lives, and remember that sometimes it’s not the teenager at fault – there are two parts to the relationship, the parent and the teen, and both can change their relationship by behaving differently.’

It’s critical for parents to talk to their teenager and plan quality time together.

Family members can be a great source of support, as can services like Relate.