How can supporting parents of teens benefit organisational performance?
They say “bigger children, bigger problems”. As my children and step children have grown, as a working mum and a step mum, I can relate to that.
The child that I once knew felt like a stranger in our house. The things we used to have fun doing are absent and I was facing a person that I no longer understood.
My eldest daughter is an amazing individual, she’s always been polite and kind, helpful and has a real sense of fun. Then she became a teenager. I was never anxious of this stage, even when others would say “good luck with that” as she became a teen, because she’s different to everyone else and I believed I wouldn’t have the same issues.
How wrong I was. The little girl I once knew, became quiet, moody, irritable, secretive, angry and emotional all the time. Most of the time I had no idea what was going on, she was just mean to her siblings and to us as parents. The house went from being happy and fun to full of anxiety, shouting, arguing and doors slamming. She found time with the family boring, arduous and a punishment. She turned to her friends and her phone for connections.
At first, I told myself “she’s just being a teenager”. But as family life became more and more difficult, the stress was really starting to impact me. I know I’m not alone; recent research shows that a third of working parents feel burnt out and up to 90% find balancing work and parenting stressful*. I realised I just couldn’t go on like this.
As a coach, I know that my mindset and how I deal with the situation is as much to do with the problems themselves. I couldn’t dismiss what was going on and just hope “she grows out of it”, life at home was so stressful, it wasn’t just impacting me at home, it was all I could think of all day. I was distracted at work, I started to doubt myself as a parent and that spilled over into the workplace. I couldn’t leave my frustrations and anger at home, it’s not that easy to just separate the two.
I found myself irritable, short tempered, angry and indecisive at work. I would pass up opportunities or new projects, because, mentally, I just couldn’t take on any more. When my life at home was in such turmoil, I didn’t need any more stress and responsibility at work, I just couldn’t cope with the overwhelm I was going through already. And with 1 in 3 households with both parents working, it’s no wonder over 59% of parents say they are struggling with their mental health**. This is then also exasperated by the increase in single parent households, where co-parenting is complex, emotionally draining, as you struggle to overcome relationship break ups and create new lives for the family. All these ongoing parental challenges spill into the workplace.
Not enough research has gone into the impacts of parental stress on workplace productivity, but we know that the impact is strikingly evident. There is an understanding that mental and emotional stress outside the workplace can impact your concentration, anxiety, self-esteem, confidence and behaviour towards colleagues. The ripple effect on your teams, line management and departments across the business can be enormous; as communications and relationships break down, the work environment becomes more toxic.
Parenting is the hardest job in the world, we’re responsible for bringing up another human being, our next generation, our future…that’s an enormous responsibility. In a 24/7 society, with no manual, no one size fits all answer to problems, with mental health issues on the rise, through an unprecedented global pandemic and a cost of living crisis – it’s tough!
I remember seeing a phase that said “I want my children to be independent, bold and headstrong, but just not while I’m raising them”. Parenting children as they turn into teens is hard, but with some tools, techniques and the right mindset, you can build a relationship where they have room to grow and the self belief in you as a parent to let them soar.
How can HR help in supporting parents of teens?
There have been organisational improvements in the support for new parents, for maternity/paternity, however parenting doesn’t stop there, it’s just the beginning. Organisations who support working parents throughout their journey are more likely to attract and retain their talent, helping employees to openly parent without judgement and bias. Parenting UK states that parenting education and support in the workplace can help parents to manage family issues before they turn into problems that affect their own mental health and workplace performance.
Shwezin sits on P&P’s Panel of Experts. We have just launched a webinar to support parents to deal with the challenges of parenting teenagers. Find out more here.
*Modern Families Index 2017
**UNICEF UK research
*** UNICEF UK Research 2022