How we can help Helping Parents and Families Advice for families 6 Things you may not know about your teenager Being the parent of a teenager is not always easy. Here are some of the things happening to teenagers that are not always obvious. John Horgan (right as a teen and now) is a Family Practitioner in our Family Support Services. He has 38 years of experience working with all sorts of families and has 3 grown up children of his own. Here are some insights from his work with teenagers in our Today’s Teens programme: Your teenager needs more sleep than you! During the teenage years, sleep patterns change because the brain produces melatonin at different times of the day. This may make your teen feel tired later in the evening, keeps them awake at night and can make it harder for them to wake up in the morning. They are not just being lazy! Your teenager needs lots of alone time. It is no surprise that with all the brain and hormonal developments your teen is having to deal with that they may need a bit more time on their own. So they may want to hide in their room for more time than you are comfortable with. Setting up really good family routines (shared meal times, a weekly family film or game etc.) will give your teen a structure that allows them that ‘alone time’ but keeps you connected as a family too. Your teenager feels love just the same as you do. As an adult it can be easy to dismiss a teen’s first love or crush but remember that the love they feel is just as real to them as the people you love. A break up of a first boyfriend or girlfriend can be as heart breaking and stressful as a marriage break up. So don’t try to dismiss the stress and upset they feel. Be there to listen, give cuddles and reassurance. Your teenager is busy trying to be part of the pack! All teenagers want to ‘fit in’. They are struggling with their identity and what it means to be ‘them’. Peer pressure to conform is at record levels with the use of social media and mobile phones. Letting your teen take some small risks and try lots of new experiences and hobbies can help your child develop an independent identity and explore grown-up behaviour. It will help them move towards independence but in a safe way that you can be involved in. Your teenager needs affection even when they are arguing with you. In the heat of an argument or clash of wills it can be easy to forget that your teenager is still really just an adolescent child. Even when they appear to be growing up fast and trying to do more grown up activities. Make sure you show your teen as much affection as possible. Whether this be through a cuddle, a kiss or spending some quality time together. Your teenager is not you! Just because you have experienced being a teenager does not mean you know or understand what your teenager is going through. It can be easy to make assumptions of what they are going through based on your own teenage past. Take the time to consider whether the expectations you have of your teen are realistic, do they fit with the person they are becoming and are they based on your experience or theirs? If you are struggling with your teen then please do get in touch. If this advice page has helped you then please consider donating to Children North East to help other parents and teens growing up in the north east.