An expert guide to raising teens

Being a teenager is tough—on teenagers and their parents. While there’s lots of advice on the internet, sorting the credible from the questionable can be difficult.

But hundreds of parents around Australia found that accessing a free, online support program improved their parenting skills and confidence, according to two randomised controlled studies from 2015 to 2017.

The program, called Partners in Parenting (PiP), was developed by experts at Monash University and The University of Melbourne.

“Parents have the intrinsic motivation to do their best for their child, but they don’t always know how,” says Associate Professor Marie Yap, Head of the Parenting and Youth Mental Health Group at Monash University’s Institute of Cognitive and Clinical Neurosciences.

Marie and colleagues reviewed internet search phrases concerned parents might use, gathering 1,740 pieces of advice that they then summarised.

They put these to a panel of 27 international experts, and those recommendations rated as ‘important’ or ‘essential’ by at least 90 per cent of the panel were then used to create the nine online modules in PiP.

Some parents asked for further support, so the team added access to a trained coach for 45-minute teleconferences. This extension program, ‘Therapist-assisted Online Parenting Strategies’ (TOPS),  provides further support for parents whose teens are accessing mental health services for depression or anxiety.

“A lot of parenting programs are face-to-face group programs, which are great for helping parents realise they’re not alone in these challenges, and to support each other.

“But it can be a double-edged sword because parents aren’t just dealing with their child’s difficulties—there’s also a very pervasive perception that their child is having difficulties because the parents have done something wrong,” Marie says.

Online delivery is not only confidential, it can also overcome logistical barriers.

“These tool kits aren’t given to parents because they’re bad parents, but because we all have the ability to adapt and grow,” Marie says.

The team is currently looking for volunteers with children aged 12 to 17 who have been diagnosed with depression or anxiety, to take part in a trial of TOPS.