Parenting teens to be happy

Dr Asha Pemberton -
Dr Asha Pemberton -


AS WE END May, the month focused on mental health awareness, it is fitting to share some parental strategies that can enhance happiness and fulfilment in young people.

According to the World Health Organization, “Mental health is a state of mental well-being that enables people to cope with the stresses of life, realise their abilities, learn well and work well, and contribute to their community. It is an integral component of health and well-being that underpins our individual and collective abilities to make decisions, build relationships and shape the world we live in.”

Integral to mental health and well-being is the art of happiness. Happiness need not be a fleeting aspiration, but yet a concept that can be actively sought and parented to young people.

Trust your tweens and teens

While practising trust should begin in the early years of parenthood, it is never too late to demonstrate to young people that they are trusted. This cements a bond between teen and parent that supports commitment and a close relationship.

Young people feel safer and more secure when they are trusted and are then more likely to reach out to parents in times of distress. Trust is a choice. Young people will make errors and poor decisions but these should not override the determination of parents to think of them in the best possible light and give them the benefit of the doubt.

Preserve togetherness

Togetherness means maintaining a close and meaningful relationship with your teen. Despite periods of rebellion or seclusion, young people still want to know that their parents are available.

It is, of course challenging for parents to withstand feelings of rejection and hurt, but this is part of the teen parenting process. When young people are insecure within their parent or family structure they are more likely to reach out and connect to other sources of comfort, which are often not positive or safe.

Practise empathy

Empathy refers to the ability to understand the experiences of others, whether or not we agree with them or have even experienced them. The context of the world today is so very different to that of a generation ago. Parents of teens absolutely did not have many comparable life issues to contend with.

That said, parents are required to step away from their own adolescence and find ways to understand and have empathy for the many things their teens have to grapple with. Through honest empathy, young people feel more understood and in turn the overall relationship builds from strength to strength.

Listen actively and

ensure they feel heard

The foundation of empathy and togetherness is communication. In order for young people to connect and communicate they want to be heard, without judgment. When young people feel ignored or dismissed they are more likely to act out or rebel in order to demand that attention.

Parents are not required to agree with or acquiesce to everything a young person wants, but they should still be able to have open dialogue, without distraction and listen to their points of view.

Sometimes just the simple act of open communication supports young people in problem-solving their own questions. This requires parents to accept young people for their unique perspectives and styles, to refrain from comparing them to others and allowing them to find and feel happiness through this confusing but exciting stage of development.


"Parenting teens to be happy"

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