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Parenting a teen during coronavirus

While a teen may not demand as much of your attention as a young child might, having a teen right now comes with its own challenges. Teenagers have a tendency to feel invincible, so they may not really understand the need for safety restrictions and changes. It would be no surprise if they’ve felt frustrated about not seeing their friends as much as they wanted or having events they were looking forward to cancelled over the summer.

Even as restrictions ease, this can result in problems with behaviour as their frustrations spill over. To help with this, we’ve pulled together some tips to help you deal with some common issues, and some resources to help your teen.

Tips for getting on with your teenager

Tip #1: It’s good to talk – and to listen

Teens often moan that no one ever listens to them, so let them know that you’re there if they want to talk. Talking with your teenager – and listening to them of course – is one of the best ways to build a good relationship. 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.

 But don't interrogate them. You could let them know what you’ve been doing and encourage them to share what they’re up to at school. Let them know you’re interested. You could also try talking to them about your own teenage experiences – they might learn something from your past mistakes. Or at least have a laugh at your fashion sense…

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Tip #2: Agree to disagree

Try not to let your discussions descend into arguments. It’s important to listen to their opinions and respect them, even if you don’t agree with them. Sometimes agreeing to disagree is the best option.

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Tip #3: Give them their own space

Everyone needs time to themselves every so often, and teenagers are no exception. If they want to be alone for a bit, let them. It’s also important to respect their privacy – did you tell your parents everything when you were their age? As long as they don’t seem distressed, you don’t need to press them for information.

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Tip #4: Let them know they're doing a good job

Sometimes you may feel that all you do is nag. Remember to praise them as well and let them know you’re proud of them and you love them. Don’t just praise them for big achievements – notice the day-to-day wins too, like when they’re trying hard, being kind or helping out.

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Tip #5: Set clear boundaries

Just like younger children, teenagers need boundaries, so make sure they know what’s acceptable and what’s not. Be prepared to discuss why these rules are in place, and to compromise if they make a convincing case. When setting rules it’s wise to pick your battles – how important is a tidy bedroom, if they’re keeping up with their schoolwork?

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Tip #6: Be positive

Teenagers may act as if they’re invincible, but their emotions can be fragile. Underneath a stroppy exterior they may be scared or confused by changes happening in their bodies and in the world around them, so being positive and reassuring them that you have their back no matter what will really help. A hug a day goes a long way too. They may shrug you off, but secretly they’ll be reassured. 

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Tip #7: Be patient

Mood swings are normal for teenagers and the way they feel now won’t necessarily be the way they feel next week. If they’re pushing you away just now, don’t let this get to you – it won’t last forever. The best thing you can do is support them through the ups and downs of the teenage years and be there for them if things go wrong. 

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Tip #8: Have fun together

Having a laugh is a great way of building a good relationship. Chances are your interests are quite different, but try to find some common ground and be prepared to compromise. And to accept that most of the compromises are likely to be on your side! Try watching a film or boxset together, sharing music, cooking or baking, or getting them to teach you one of their skills, from something they’ve learnt in school to how to use Tik Tok. 

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Dealing with withdrawn or angry teens

If your teen has been withdrawn or angry, Matt Henderson from Learning through Landscapes explains how getting outside for a walk, a bike ride or a game can make a world of difference.

Dealing with conflict

Whether they’re angry at their friends, their school work or you – chances are you will have dealt with some form of conflict with your teenager. The Scottish Centre for Conflict Resolution estimates that nearly 20% of young people think about leaving home because of arguments on at least a monthly basis – showing how important it is to help your teen cope, especially at this time.

It is worth remembering that conflict with your teenager is not always a bad thing – they’re learning to become independent. Here are some tips that can help you respond if your teenager starts to get frustrated.

Tip #1: Pick your moment

Choose a suitable time and place to talk to them about it. Talking while you’re doing something else, like walking, baking or driving, can take away some of the pressure. The Young Minds website has some good suggestions for things you can do together that also give you a chance to talk.

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Tip #2: Stay calm

Try to stay calm and listen to them – this will help them feel that their opinions are being heard. Even if you don’t agree with their point of view, it will help reduce conflict if you show that you have listened to them and thought about what they have to say. 

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Tip #3: It’s not them, it’s the behaviour

Make it clear that it’s not them that’s the problem, it’s their behaviour, and that there’s nothing wrong with them feeling angry or upset, it’s how they express it that’s causing problems. 

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Tip #4: Be curious

Ask them questions to try to understand their point of view. Try to imagine things from their side.

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Tip #5: Be positive

Try to say things in a positive way and use straightforward language. For example, rather than saying “Why are you so grumpy?” you might say: “You seem upset about something. Do you want to talk about it?”

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Tip #6: Be honest

Tell them how the situation is affecting you and how you feel.

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Tip #7: Let them know you’re there for them

Reassure them that you love them and are there for them.

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Puberty and periods

Speaking to your kids about puberty is an important job for parents no matter what is going on around us. It’s likely they will have had some lessons at school, and you may have talked to them about this before, but it’s always good to let them know they can ask you anything.

There is no right way to go about talking to your teen about puberty, and chances are they will feel just as nervous discussing this subject as you might. Young Scot have developed a list of FAQs full of information. To help start an open conversation, you could share this link with them and let them know you are available if they want to talk.

If you have a daughter going through puberty, it’s great if you can be open with them about periods too. When they first start, your daughter may find them scary or embarrassing and they may have heard a few urban myths about periods.  It’s important to help your daughter understand that there is nothing to be embarrassed about, and talking to her is a great way to start. You may find it useful to show your daughter this great page from Young Scot to help you debunk myths about periods and help you and your daughter start talking about periods.

Looking after yourself

Being the parent of a teenager can be hard work! To be there for them, you need to be in a good place yourself. Our page on looking after your mental health has tips on how you can clear your head and stay strong.

Further support

Young Scot's Aye Feel hub has lots of information for young people how to look after their emotional wellbeing, support from organisations around Scotland and tips on how to promote a positive mindset.

The Relationship Helpline provides relationship support for families and is a free universal service for anyone over 16 years old who has relationship issues (couples, individuals and families). The service provides immediate emotional support and signposting where appropriate.

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Coronavirus Supporting your teen Pre-teen (9+ years)

Last updated: 6 Aug, 2020