Having a teenager in the family can be tough. As a parent, you may feel that overnight your son or daughter has become sulky, bad tempered and seems to want to do nothing but shock you. But teenagers themselves may be feeling that they are going through a tough time too.

For years they have been trying to do what you think is right. Now they have to learn how to think and act for themselves. They might say or do things that upset or frighten you. The good news is that with love and support most children grow out of this phase.

The world has changed a lot since you were a teenager and they will be facing very different problems and pressures. It’s best to be open about the risks they might be taking so that you can do what you can to keep your teenager safe.

Talking about difficult subjects

Research shows that young people want their parents and adult carers to talk to them about sex and healthy relationships. It may not be easy but it’s worth making the effort. If you don’t bring it up they may learn about it from their friends, TV or magazines and get things wrong or become more confused.

Don’t panic if you think your teenager is using drugs or drinking. Wait until you are calm and let them know you are worried.

Relate have a number of resources and help-pages for parents with teenagers click here to go to the website

Encourage them to tell you what’s happening

Positive messages help. Your behaviour will influence them most. Don’t expect them not to drink and smoke if you drink and smoke in front of them.

Help them say ‘no’ to pressure. Point out that their friends might just be showing off. Help them see that they can have a mind of their own.

Make sure they are aware of the risks. Teenagers need to understand the risks surrounding sex and getting involved in antisocial behaviour. Lots of young people get into trouble with the police because of things they do when they are drunk or on drugs.

Don’t expect instant solutions. Drugs and alcohol might be covering another problem such as bullying or difficulties with schoolwork.

Let them know you are there to talk and don’t try to solve everything with one conversation. Don’t be afraid to ask for outside help. Be clear about what is and what isn’t allowed in your house. Help them understand what your worries are too.

The College of Psychiatry have a Surviving Adolescence toolkit for parents http://www.rcpsych.ac.uk/healthadvice/parentsandyouthinfo/parentscarers/adolescence.aspx.