Parents of teens: your most frequent questions

Parenthood   ›   Parents of teens: your most frequent questions

If there's one thing that unites parents of teenagers around the world, it's the endless stream of questions – from morning to night, and sometimes even through the night. What is she doing locked up in her room? Why is he always on his phone? What does he find so interesting about that friend I don't really like Does this sound familiar?

At Tel-jeunes Parents, we receive these kinds of questions several times a day, every day. Whether by call or chat, before school or after the rest of the family has gone to bed, parents reach out to us to talk about their teenager, this person they thought they knew so well just a few years or even months ago.

While every teen, every parent, and every situation is, of course, unique, there are still some questions that are quite common: we have grouped them into major categories, hoping this will reassure you about your own concerns!

The "How" category, or the quest for perfect parenting

Among the most frequently asked questions to the Tel-jeunes Parents intervention team, there are all the questions starting with "How," such as:

  • How do I find the right words to approach a sensitive or difficult subject with my teen?

  • How do I adequately support them through what they are going through?

  • How can I convince them to confide in me?

Although these questions may stem from a certain misunderstanding of what the teen is experiencing, they also prove the parent's desire to act for the well-being of their child. The goal, therefore, is to maintain this mindset but accept that your teen wants to try different things on their own, to discover their own limits. This is an integral part of their development and must be respected.

For the Tel-jeunes team, the parents who contact them would do well to remember their role: to support, accompany, encourage, but also to guide and equip the young person so that they become a full-fledged person, endowed with critical thinking and values – and not a copy of their parent. It is also about maintaining the connection with your child, no matter what happens: by keeping the dialogue open, by being available and listening, by not invalidating what the teen is going through. By knowing where to find you and not being afraid to express what they feel, your teen will be more likely to turn to you in times of need – even if that need arises several months later. Don't force things, but don't give up. And most importantly, allow yourself to make mistakes!

The "Why" category, or perpetual astonishment

  • Why does my teen spend their life in their room?

  • Why don't they want to do activities with me anymore?

  • Why did she steal a sweater when I buy her everything she wants?

  • Why isn't he studying at school anymore?

The list could go on and on, as teens are experts at doing things incomprehensible to their parents. The common denominator in the questions of this category lies in the irony of the answer: if your teen acts this way, it's because they are a teen. Faced with this incredibly simple reality, you may feel helpless, or you may get the impression that your well-meaning advice goes in one ear and out the other. This is quite understandable, but know that it does not mean that your child no longer needs you, or that your presence no longer counts; as mentioned earlier: they are simply a teen.

Now that the stage is set, it's not the time to be defeatist. Try to do some introspection, to remember the teen you were: how would you have liked to be spoken to, warned, advised, guided?

To understand why your teen acts in a certain way, it is also essential to understand the stages of their development. Adolescence is a transitional period where everything changes and where one is building oneself in real-time, without a safety net or instructions. Mistakes are inevitably part of the program because they are what allow growth, to learn lessons, to learn. Here again, it is about remembering the role one plays as a parent in this identity construction (equipping, framing, guiding) and especially maintaining the connection with your child, come rain or shine. Prohibiting your teen from doing something will not prevent them from doing it, but you can decide on the posture you want to take, and the communication strategy to adopt to strengthen this bond, instead of eroding it.

The "What" category, or undisguised guilt

At Tel-jeunes Parents, we note that many people question their responsibility for what their young person is going through:

  • What did I do for him to talk to me like that?

  • What did I miss in their upbringing for her to take that nude photo of herself?

  • What did I say that I shouldn't have?

Read this sentence out loud: it's time to put that good old guilt aside. It's nothing personal. Once again: your teen is simply a teen. Who is not thinking about you while living their first experiences, but who is living their life, experimenting, and discovering.

As a parent, you will always have the right to set the rules and limits that are important to you, and your teen will always be able to react to them. But one thing is certain: they need to be heard because what they are living is the only thing that matters at the moment. It is then important to put aside your rational adult brain and to welcome their teenage brain with kindness and openness.

So, while there is no generic answer to the different questions that parents have, a few tips can help to reduce the pressure of perfect parenting (which does not exist, by the way, so you can breathe) or guilt. You are questioning, you want the best for your teen: that's love, and it's the best foundation there is.