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It’s important to remember that as hard as it is to parent a teenager, it’s just as hard being one! Teens may sometimes act as if they’re all grown up and don’t need you, but they still need to feel that they’re safe and that they belong. Here are some simple things you can do to support your teen to feel secure and part of the family, helping them lay the foundations for being an adult.

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Tips to help teens feel secure

Tip #1: Provide structure to family life

Routine is good for teenagers. They might not think so, but having a predictable structure to their day makes them feel secure, especially when everything else feels as if it’s changing. It’s normal for teenagers’ emotions to be up and down, so helping them stick to a few healthy habits can give them some stability. It’s also a good way to have fun as a family, especially if your weekly routines include things like movie night, pizza night, or a weekly walk.

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Tip #2: Include them in decision-making

Letting your teenager be involved in making decisions is a good way to give them responsibility. It lets them know you trust them, which boosts their confidence and self esteem. It also helps prepare them for being a grown up, when there are lots of decisions to be made! 

One way to do this is to let them manage their time. Let them decide how to structure their day themselves, for example, choosing when they do their chores or homework. This also helps them feel a part of the household, and gives them ownership over the things they need to do.

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Tip #3: Set aside time to talk

Find the time to talk to them. It may help to set aside a regular time to chat, for example, while sharing a pizza on a Sunday night or when you’re out for a walk or drive. Teenagers often feel that no one listens to them, so making time for them shows them how much you care.

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Tip #4: Be ready to talk when they are

Sometimes you just need to be ready to talk when they want to. If they look as if they want to talk, try to stop what you’re doing and listen. It might not be the best time for you, but try to be there when they need you to be. It will show that you care about how they feel, and that their feelings are important to you.

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Tip #5: Be thankful

Being grateful can help cheer us all up. This goes for teenagers too. Tell your children how grateful you are for big and small things, including how thankful you are to have them. Commenting on small specific things, like being grateful because your teen has made you a cup of tea, can sometimes be more effective than expressing gratitude for bigger things, like the sun shining. Acknowledging the enjoyment you get from little things you notice in your everyday life, like snowdrops or a dog in a jumper, can also help boost their mood. Who knows – if they see you being optimistic and doing positive things like this, it might rub off on them.

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Tip #6: Make the time

You might think you’re the last person your teenager wants to hang out with. While they might give you this impression sometimes, it isn’t true. You might not have tons in common at the moment but that doesn’t mean you can’t have a lot of fun together. Make time to spend with them doing an activity that you both enjoy. It could be as simple as watching a TV show you both like. It could be playing a board game, cooking together, going for a walk – anything. Just try and find some common ground and show them that you enjoy spending time with them.

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Tip #7: Try to relax

If you and/or your teen are feeling anxious and stressed, why not give some relaxation exercises a try together? It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but you could check out some simple breathing or mindfulness exercises, or even yoga videos on YouTube. There are lots more suggestions on the MINDAye Feel and Anna Freud Centre websites.

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Tip #8: Get moving

Getting outdoors regularly will do the whole family the world of good! Even if the weather’s horrible, getting outside is great for clearing the head and raising the spirits. It also gives you a chance to chat without any distractions in the way. Our page on physical activity and getting outdoors has some advice on getting out the house.

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Tip #9: Model the behaviour you'd like to see

Your teen probably won’t admit this, but you’re still a big influence on the way they behave. So try and treat them in the way you’d like them to treat you – with love, kindness and respect. It isn’t always easy to keep calm when they’re driving you up the wall, or to be kind when they make mistakes, but give it a go! And if you get things wrong (which we all do) set a good example by apologising to them. 

Our page on coping with parenting when you're raising a teen has tips for helping you stay calm.

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