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Now I understand why Peter Pan didn't want to grow up...

Updated: Jan 22, 2020

The 5 key principles to follow as you set your teenager up for success as an adult.

As teenagers change, parents need to change too.

Having teenagers and young adults in the house can be a challenging time – they are dealing with a lot of issues, all while managing their own personal, emotional and physical growth and the many associated (and unexpected!) challenges. As a parent of a teenager and young adult, I'm living this journey and strategies that worked for my oldest child won't necessarily work for my youngest.

The way we, as parents, support them through this stage of life is really important.

As these teenagers grow and change, their parents MUST grow and change too. It’s not sufficient to use the same thinking, tools and words that worked for their school-age children, as these won’t support teenagers to make a successful transition into adulthood.

In my work as a Career Expert, working with teenagers and young adults aged 16-25 years across New Zealand, I see many parents’ approach to parenting their teenagers as damaging their ability to move into adulthood.

I see parents micro-managing their teenagers daily schedule – getting them out of bed, laying out their breakfast, scheduling their day in excruciating detail.

I see parents stepping in to speak for their child, so much so that the child checks with their parent before answering a question.

I see parents trying to control each situation, such as the parent who told me (in front of their child) how they wanted me to structure the career coaching session and then balking at my ‘trust the process’ response.

I see parents missing opportunities to engage with their child and build them up, overlooking positive moments in favour of highlighting what ISN’T working.

I see parents dismissing their teenager's opinions or ideas, in favour of substituting their own views, and then getting frustrated when their child clams up.

I can admit here that I’ve done ALL of those things above, and more. It’s not easy being a parent of a teenager, and there are no specific tricks of the trade that I can guarantee will work.

But, there are some proven principles that can guide you as you navigate these important years.

1. There are 5 key skills that children need to develop as they move into adulthood – think about how you are helping your child develop their strength in each of these:





Impulse Control

2. “What should I do?” Try to move from providing answers and solutions for your child, to helping your teenager find solutions for themselves. When you step in and do things for your child, they don’t become resourceful and can lack accountability. You are demonstrating with your words and actions that you don’t think they can do it. And they see that.

3. Who is proud? As a child, our rewards and praise and more likely to come from external sources – parents, teachers, badges/awards etc. But as a young adult, they should be moving towards internal praise as their motivator – feeling proud of themselves for what they have overcome or achieved, rather than looking for praise from others. Ensure you aren’t undermining their experience of success and accomplishment.

4. Self-responsibility: We all remember as a child, blaming someone else for a mistake or dumb action “He started it!” As a young adult, when something goes wrong, they should be able to own their part in it, see what mistakes they made and reflect on how to fix them.

5. Be the change: Parents have the biggest impact on their children and are in a powerful position of influence. So, use it to role-model behaviours that you want to see your child display, ensure you walk the talk, be clear on your ethical boundaries and the way you treat yourself. Do not send conflicting messages.

Each child is different, they develop in different ways and in different timeframes, and some approaches that worked for one child may not work for another. The move to adulthood is a process, so being aware that change is required from everyone helps you see that the responsibility is shared between parents and the teenager.

Communication is key in this stage of life – you may not have all the answers but showing that you are committed to making the transition to adulthood positive and empowering will ensure you maintain a good "I'm on your side" relationship with your teenager.

"Adolescence is a period of rapid changes: Between the ages of 12 and 17, for example, a parent ages as much as 20 years." Unknown

Hi, I'm Tracey Beard, the Founder and CEO (Chief Encouragement Officer) at Career Matters. I am changing the way students and young adults explore their career options.

To find out more about the results I deliver for this amazing generation, take a look at or you can find me on Facebook @careermattersnz.

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