The teenage years can be particularly isolating for parents – and never more so than currently. The problems teenagers are facing are on the increase and for parents, the pandemic has only heightened our sense of isolation in trying to support them.
When the pandemic hit, my co-founder, Anita and I were busy raising funds via a crowdfunding campaign to create a safe supportive space for parents of teenagers to connect anonymously with other parents. We launched our online community, Whatever Together, last summer giving parents a much-needed place to share the stress and worries of parenting a teen and find the reassurance and resilience to keep going.
We brought together our professional experience in parenting and digital mental health with our personal experiences as parents of teenagers ourselves. We saw there was nothing similar and so created a space we’d been looking for and wished existed: whatevertogether.org.
We are on a mission to help connect parents of teenagers and ensure their voices and experiences are heard so they can feel less alone and more supported in those really tough teenage years.
‘IT’S SO HELPFUL TO HEAR WHAT OTHER PARENTS OF TEENAGERS ARE REALLY EXPERIENCING BEHIND CLOSED DOORS; TO KNOW YOU’RE NOT ALONE’
So how are parents of teenagers feeling currently? What are they talking about in our community? There have been active discussions recently on gender identify and sexuality – how it really feels when your teen tells you they’re bisexual or non-binary; honesty around how much time teenagers are really spending on screens and how to help when your teen has no friends.
Our most popular and ongoing discussions since we started have been around teen mental health – anti-depressants for teenagers – what are the pros and cons, have they helped, what are they really like. Anxiety is also high on the agenda – how to help your teen manage it (particularly relevant currently, even though GCSEs and A-levels are very different this year) and when your teen refuses to go to school or engage with learning during lockdowns.
These are often the kind of discussions that can be really difficult to have with our friends and family – maybe for fear of being judged or because they don’t have experience of similar challenges. As a result, we’re not always 100% honest about what’s going on or how we feel about it. And while it’s easy to find experts giving us advice, it can be even more helpful to hear what other parents are really experiencing behind closed doors – the tough and the messy reality. To help us realise we’re not the only one and also to find out what’s actually made a difference for others in a similar situation and to give us some fresh ideas as well as a sense of hope.
If you’re looking for the voice of the parent of a teen or to find out what matters to parents of teenagers, for a story or campaign, do come talk to us. We’ll fiercely protect the anonymity of each one of our members but we’ll be happy to share perspectives on a current topic and let you hear the reality not the glossy, polished view.