Early teenage relationships often involve exploring physical intimacy and sexual feelings. You might not feel ready for this, but you have an important role in guiding and supporting your child through this important developmental stage.
Changes in relationships in adolescence
One of the big changes you might notice is that your child wants to spend more time with friends and peers and less time with family.
At the same time, it might seem like you and your child are having more arguments. This is normal, as children seek more independence. It’s also because your child is starting to think more abstractly and to question different points of view. On top of this, your child might upset people without meaning to, just because she doesn’t always understand how her words and actions affect other people.
It might help to know that conflict tends to peak in early adolescence and that these changes show that your child is maturing. Even if you feel like you’re arguing with your child a lot now, it isn’t likely to affect your relationship with your child in the longer term. But it might be a good idea to develop some ways of managing conflict to help you through this stage in your relationship.
Supporting social and emotional development in adolescence
Social and emotional changes are part of your child’s journey to adulthood. You have a big role to play in helping your child develop grown-up emotions and social skills. Strong relationships with family and friends are vital for your child’s healthy social and emotional development.
Here are some ideas to help you support your child’s social and emotional development.
Be a role model
You can be a role model for positive relationships with your friends, children, partner and colleagues. Your child will learn from seeing relationships that have respect, empathy and positive ways of resolving conflict.
Get to know your child’s friends
Getting to know your child’s friends and making them welcome in your home will help you keep up with your child’s social relationships. It also shows that you recognise how important your child’s friends are to your child’s sense of self.
Listen to your child’s feelings Active listening can be a powerful way of strengthening your relationship with your child in these years. To listen actively, you need to stop what you’re doing when your child wants to talk. If you’re in the middle of something, make a time when you can listen. Respect your child’s feelings and try to understand his perspective, even if it’s not the same as yours.
Be open about your feelings
Telling your child how you feel when she behaves in particular ways helps your child learn to read and respond to emotions. It also models positive and constructive ways of relating to other people.
Talk about relationships, sex and sexuality
If you talk about relationships, sex and sexuality in an open and non-judgmental way with your child, it can promote trust between you. But it’s best to look for everyday times when you can easily bring up these issues rather than having a big talk.
Focus on the positive
There might be times when you seem to have a lot of conflict with your child or your child seems very moody. In these times, it helps to focus on and reinforce the positive aspects of your child’s social and emotional development.