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The teenage years can be an exciting time of change for children.
It can be a rollercoaster as they experiment, learn new things and work out who they are and their place in the world.
In the pre-teen and teenage years:
- children’s bodies and emotions change quickly
- they want to ‘fit in’ with their friends
- they test limits and take risks – but the part of the brain that helps them predict what will happen, is still developing. They may do silly and dangerous things
- there can be a lot going on with family, school, friends or work
- there may be bullying or racism.
A loving family can help teenagers deal with the ups and downs of life.
- Good relationships with family
- A trusted adult they can really talk to
- Good role models
- Help to make good decisions and deal with problems
- Chances to practice being responsible
- Support when someone passes away
- Help to be healthy and safe
- To feel connected to culture and community.
Even when children think they are a ‘big man’ or ‘big woman’, they still need your guidance, love and support.
Help teenagers to eat well and not have too much junk food. They need to be active and not spend too much time watching TV and other screens.
Teenagers need you to:
- be someone they can trust and rely on – only make promises you can keep
- really listen to them
- talk with them about
- how they are feeling
- treating people with respect
- being responsible
- taking risks
- staying safe and healthy.
As they get older make sure they have good information about drugs and alcohol, mental health, safe sex and contraception. If they don’t want to talk with you about these things, make sure they have another trusted adult to talk to – Uncle, Aunty, other family member or friend.
- know what’s going on in their life
- help them have friends, interests and activities
- praise and celebrate their successes.
If there is bullying or racism, tell teenagers:
- the problem is with the other person – not them
- to stay calm and not put themselves in danger – talk about safe ways of handling things
- to come to you or another trusted adult for help.
You are a role model for your children. Let them see you making positive choices in your own life.
Teenagers often sleep late in the morning and have trouble getting up for school. Changes in hormones mean they get tired later at night and tend to sleep in. It helps to go to bed and get up at the same time every day, even on weekends, to have regular exercise and limit caffeine. A 20-minute nap also helps. Turn off computer games and phones, and relax before bed.
It’s OK to have rules about teenagers’ behaviour. It keeps them safe as they become more responsible. Rules could be about:
- how they treat others
- helping around the house
- keeping school and work commitments
- where they go and who they spend time with
- what time they come home
- letting you know where they are.
Agree on rules together and what will happen if they are broken. Keep consequences reasonable and short.
There can be arguments when teenagers push limits. Try to:
- stay calm – don’t shout back
- listen to their point of view
- tell them why you think things are important, such as respect, caring for others and sharing responsibilities – try not to lecture.
When things calm down talk about what went wrong and what else you both could have done. Help them deal with any issues and find help if they need it.
All families argue at times but violence or abuse is never OK. If your child is violent towards you or others, get help. If you are in immediate danger call the police on 000.
- Don’t retaliate – it makes things worse
- Be clear you do not allow violence or abuse
- Keep yourself and others safe. If there is immediate danger, call the police on 000.
Tell children you love them even if you don’t like what they do.
Most teenagers cope with support from family and friends. Your child may need extra help if they:
- feel low much of the time
- lack energy or motivation
- are angry a lot
- lash out or are violent to people or pets
- feel worthless or guilty
- self-harm or talk about suicide
- are using drugs or alcohol.
Your doctor or Aboriginal health service is a good place to start.