Adolescence is a dynamic period characterised by rapid changes in physical, cognitive, and social development. During this time, children strive for greater independence, autonomy and self-identity, with increased focus on relationships outside of the family unit.
We know from the research that positive parent-child relationships and communication can have a significant impact on a child’s wellbeing across the lifespan (Chen et al., 2019; Grey et al., 2022; Stafford et al., 2016). As parents, changing the way you communicate with your child as they grow older can help you both to feel happier and more connected in your relationship.
Communication is particularly important as we help our children to navigate adolescence. Studies (Waters, 2017; Whittle et al., 2014; Yap et al., 2014) examining parental factors associated with adolescent wellbeing have highlighted the need for parents to :
- Demonstrate warmth and positive communication
- Grant increased autonomy to match their child's developmental maturity, and
- Practice clear communication and consistency with expectations, rules and consequences.
With advances in technology, and teenagers spending more time on their phones and computers, it can feel like parents are competing for face-to-face communication with their child more than ever. All of this can be especially tough for parents who have experienced a close relationship with their child in the pre-teen years.
It is important to acknowledge that conflict is inevitable in any relationship - but particularly as we help our children to navigate adolescence, think more independently and develop autonomy. However, ongoing conflict can undermine your relationship and lead to poor wellbeing outcomes. In terms of navigating conflict, it can be helpful to:
- Recognise ongoing conflict at home. Ongoing conflict occurs when: The issue is never resolved; You or your son consistently feel angry, upset, rejected, blamed, or unloved, and/or; there are behavioural indicators, including consistent shouting.
- Be clear and consistent with expectations, rules and consequences. Make time to sit down with your son when you are both calm and available, and ask for his input into appropriate rules and consequences.
- Be mindful of our tendency to focus on problem behaviours. Try to recognise the strengths in your child, rather than focusing on the problems (see strength-based parenting).
Positive parent-child relationships have a significant impact on a child’s wellbeing across the lifespan
- School TV has published some practical suggestions for communicating effectively with teenage boys - https://schooltv.me/sites/default/files/editions-resources/raising-boys/Raising_Boys_FS1.pdf
- Reach Out – Effective Communication and Teenagers - https://parents.au.reachout.com/skills-to-build/connecting-and-communicating/effective-communication-and-teenagers
- Reach out – Ask questions that encourage your teenager to talk -https://parents.au.reachout.com/skills-to-build/connecting-and-communicating/things-to-try-effective-communication/ask-questions-that-encourage-your-teenager-to-talk