Communicating with your teenager during ‘tough times’

Emerging Minds, Australia, December 2018

Most parents wonder how to talk with their teenager about adversity. Being a parent doesn’t mean you are unaffected by life’s challenges. However, the parent-teen relationship can often be complex and many parents going through adversity are unsure how to talk to their teenager about their situation. This resource will help you in communicating with your teenager about your experience of ‘tough times’ (e.g. relationship conflicts or separation, illness, financial difficulties, job stress, etc.), so together you can better understand these challenges. It steps you through:

  • understanding how the adversity affects you
  • thinking about what your teenager notices and experiences, and how they make sense of what is happening for you; and
  • preparing to talk with your teenager.

It is common for teenagers to worry about their parent, their parent’s experiences of adversity and how this impacts their relationship with you. They may want to know what difficulties you face and what is being done to overcome these challenges, and how to explain these difficult times to others without feeling like they are being disrespectful or disloyal to you.

As a parent it can be very challenging to think about how your child views what is happening. It may be useful to talk to your health professional or another support person about the impact of adversity on your role as a parent. You may even find it helpful to work through this resource with them.

Communicating with your teenager about difficult times can help them to make sense of their experience. If you are trying to understand your own experience, or need to talk about your experiences, discuss this with either an adult that you trust, a health professional or a peer worker. Do not expect your child to help you understand your experience of adversity.

It is important to remember that your experience of adversity does not make you a bad parent. It is possible to have a great relationship with your teen even when things are tough.

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