Communicating with your teenager

Being a parent isn’t easy and watching your child grow up into a teenager can be a nerve-wracking experience. They’re going to be thinking about relationships and exploring their feelings, which makes them vulnerable to getting hurt and can lead to challenging behaviour. It’s important to offer them advice but many parents find it hard to approach sensitive subjects like sex and sexuality.

We’ve spoken to the relationship experts Relate to get their advice on some of the top questions asked by parents including:

  • Talking to your teenager about underage sex
  • Supporting your teenager to get over heartbreak
  • Supporting  your teenager if you think they might be gay
  • What to do if your teenager is expecting a baby

If you’re concerned about sexual exploitation you might want to get in touch with Pace and explore their resources for parents and carers. We’ve included more information in the Useful Links section at the bottom of this page)

I think my teenager is having underage sex, how can I talk to them about it?

It’s a myth that you just need to sit down and have one ‘big talk’ with your children about sex. It can be much better to check in with them regularly and see if they have any questions so they know it’s not a topic that’s off limits.

Your first conversation might be quite awkward or unpleasant, but try to just get started rather than putting it off for the ‘right time’. It can be a big help to your teen to know you’ll be around if they need someone to listen to them.

How can I help my teenager get over heartbreak?

It’s easy to feel that breaking up while you’re still a teenage isn’t a big thing. We all remember getting our hearts broken when we were young. Looking back now, it doesn’t seem such a big thing and most of us can laugh about our early dating and relationship experiences.

However when you’re a teenager going through a breakup, it rarely feels trivial. Teenagers can experience break ups as a very intense and emotional time, which isn’t helped by their limited experience dealing with this sort of thing.

That’s why your support can make a big difference and little things like keeping communication lines open, letting them know you understand, not dismissing what they’re going through and checking in regularly can make a big difference.

I think my teenager might be gay, how can I support them?

Many parents worry about how to support their child if they come out. They may feel anxious about saying the wrong thing, not being supportive enough, or not knowing enough about the subject to be helpful. If this is you – try to relax. A good starting point is to realise is that, when all is said and done, your child’s sexuality isn’t a big deal.

If you think your child might be gay, it’s important not to put pressure on them to come out. If they do come out and talk to you, it’s important to let them know your relationship won’t change.

My teenager is expecting a baby, what do we do now?

Finding out your teenager is pregnant or has got someone else pregnant might be a big shock. It may leave you feeling angry or disappointed. It’s natural to worry about their future or want to take charge of the situation. However hard it is though, it can really help to step back, calm down and remind yourself that while this is overwhelming for you, it’s all probably much more overwhelming for them.

While you may have lots of questions, it’s important to approach these in a gentle and non-confrontational way and to find out what they need from you.

You can also find more information options in pregnancy on our “Help, I’m Pregnant” page including continuing with the pregnancy, adoption and ending the pregnancy.

Content reproduced with kind permission from Relate, the relationship people.

Useful links

  • Relate provides information and support on parenting teenagers, and how to adapt to changes in your child’s behaviour as they grow upon their website
  • Relate also offers online live chat with a counsellor as a free service as well as webcam counselling and message a counsellor as a paid for service. Free live chat is very popular so you might want to try and avoid the busiest times which are over lunch (between 12pm and 2pm) and after work (between 5pm and 10pm)
  • Brook has lots of information written for people under 25 to help them manage their sexual health and wellbeing. There’s a good section on pregnancy and the options available
  • Pace helps parents across the UK who are concerned that their child is or is at risk of being exploited. They have lots of information on their website to help parents understand what is happening to their child and how parents are the prime agents in helping their child exit exploitative relationships. They also offer national telephone support on 0113 240 5226 to parents with any concerns.
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