Words of encouragement: how you can support your child

Words of encouragement: how you can support your child

Life can feel lonely for teenagers. Have you considered writing a message of support to your son or daughter about being a teenager? Sharing your own experiences, words of wisdom and encouragement can help you empathise with them and improve your conversations.

A message of support for my daughter

It seems such a long time since I was a teenager. But when I was looking at some old photos at your grandma’s recently, it suddenly all came flooding back. I saw a picture of myself at the same age you are now and suddenly my heart just melted for you. I looked into my own girl’s eyes and I could see all the confusion, all the uncertainty, all the things I was unsure or even ashamed about. So that’s why I’m writing you this message of support. It’s such a time of change and I want to tell you how I got through it, because I think hearing about some of my experience might help you find your own way through.

For a while, it felt as though looks were all that mattered – and I never seemed to look as good as I thought the girls around me did. But gradually, I learned to trust my instincts about what really made me who I was (and who I still am today). I learned to play to my academic strengths. I realised that though I’d never be on the netball team, I could still enjoy other activities like riding my bike and take pride in being fit.

I discovered that what matters most is learning to trust that voice inside that’s authentically me, that makes me the person I am. I realised that I could trust that voice, and that listening to it would help me work out how to be the best possible ‘me’ I could be. I didn’t have to be the best at whatever it was I was trying to achieve, but I did have to try my best. Realising the difference between those two things really boosted my confidence.

It took me a long time to realise the importance of friendship with other girls in my life and I think you’re learning that sooner than I did. You don’t need tons of friends, but you do need at least a few close friends you can trust, and you need to learn to accept them, warts and all, and work out the hard stuff. No one is a perfect friend, but what your friend does is care about you – and in return, you care about her.

When boyfriends (or girlfriends) come along, that’s a new stage again. I remember how weird it felt, this new kind of closeness. I spent a lot of time in my bedroom just thinking about my crushes, and you’ll probably want to do that, too. I didn’t want to share these things with my mum and I imagine you’ll feel the same way. Mulling over the new stuff that’s going on is important, because there’s a lot to process. And it’s not just about boyfriends or girlfriends, it’s about all the other things that suddenly seem so important – your ‘figure’, how much you’re eating, how much exercise you do and what you look like in that dress, exam results, what you want to do when you grow up.

I made a fair few mistakes when I was a girl and no doubt you will, too. It’s one thing we can both be certain of. But here’s something I learned when I was older and I’d like you to know it now. We all make mistakes in life but what’s important is what you do after you realise you’ve made one and how you work through it. It takes courage to face up to your mistakes and move on but being able to do this can be incredibly empowering. It can give your self-esteem a huge lift, because it helps you realise that, whatever happens, you call the shots in your life and you can turn things around.

Always know that I love you

Love Mum

next steps

  • Allow your son or daughter to tell you what things are like from their point of view, and really LISTEN. Don’t jump in too quickly with your own anecdotes or advice
  • Don’t rush to judge. You’ll boost your teenager's self-esteem if you can show that you trust them and respect their opinions. Sometimes it's best not to say much, but simply reflect, “Yes, I know how that can feel” 
  • Discuss a story about young people in the news or local community and ask, “What would you do in that situation?” This can help with constructive problem-solving around tough issues such as bullying, drinking or dating
  • Look through photo albums or mementos from your own teenage years and recall an episode when you dealt with a challenge or felt anxious or uncertain. Feelings, desires and fears are universal and have no generational limits, so tapping into how you felt will give you a sense of the worries your adolescent child may be experiencing
  • Try writing your own letter of encouragement to your son or daughter about your experiences growing up. You don’t have to give it to them; just thinking about that time in your life will help you empathise with your teenager and what they're going through