teen Hildegard Havenga
Photo Credit: Gaelle Marcel via Unsplash

Hildegard Havenga has a valuable message for parents, sharing her perspective as a teen; she hopes to bridge the gap when misunderstandings crop up.


South Africa (03 July 2024) – It’s no secret that parents and their teens often clash. However, the problem isn’t that they can’t get along, but rather that they don’t try to resolve issues that often arise during this turbulent time. Yes, it’s sometimes easier to pretend nothing happened, but that’s where things go wrong…

Teens want to control situations, overcome obstacles themselves, and learn from their own mistakes. Parents, on the other hand, want to shelter their teens from the pain and hardships of life, leading them to act overprotectively.

When both parties feel unheard, it’s a recipe for disaster!

Furthermore, a teen’s self-esteem takes a knock when they feel that their parents don’t believe in their ability to handle certain situations.

So, what can parents do to better understand and support their teens?

The starting point is trust…

“Without a strong trust relationship, everyone will struggle. To build such a relationship, parents need to be involved and interested in their teen’s life. Your child needs to know you’ve got their back. Teens want to feel they can comfortably talk about the silly things they’ve done without their parents panicking over every little mistake, and that their parents support and trust them.”

Respect your teen’s privacy…

“Teens value their privacy, especially when it comes to personal matters, conversations with friends, and their own thoughts and feelings. If your child seems down and doesn’t want to talk, it doesn’t mean they no longer want you in their life. Sometimes they just need time to think things over – when the time is right, they will talk about it. Show genuine interest in your child’s daily life with informal chats, but also give your teen space and time and don’t force them to share everything with you. There are experiences every youngster simply needs to process on their own. Show that you respect your teen’s privacy by making it clear that you’re available to listen, and then leave it up to your child.”

Don’t shy away from uncomfortable conversations…

“Even though it sometimes seems like teens don’t want to listen to advice, there are certain things where they need guidance. Encourage an environment where your child feels comfortable talking about anything, whether it’s joy or frustrations. And don’t flinge if your child says something that shocks you. When it comes to uncomfortable conversations, teens expect their parents to be honest and direct – call a spade a spade. Choose the right time and place to talk – not in front of friends! – and listen attentively to what’s being said. Share information and facts rather than opinions so your teen can make an informed decision and show understanding without judging or criticizing. Focus on the problem, not your feelings about it, otherwise your teen will shut down and won’t want to talk to you about issues in the future.”

Offer unconditional support…

“Teens go through a significant growth and development phase. This includes physical, emotional, and intellectual growth. Be patient and supportive during this time and encourage us to follow our own unique path to self-discovery. The reality is that teens often function better when they go through difficult times alone. This is part of growing up and teaches them how to be independent. By allowing independence and showing trust in their abilities, parents can maintain a healthier balance between concern and freedom.”

Make peace with their friends…

“Teens know their friends, but parents also often have an intuition that shouldn’t be ignored. Have coffee with your teen and their friends to get to know them better. Show interest and ask questions – maybe your opinion will change. If not, talk to your child about it. Be willing to explain your opinion but also listen to their perspective. Base the conversation on understanding and respect and accept that you sometimes have to make peace with your child’s decisions, even if you don’t agree. If it’s the wrong choice, they will realize it eventually.”

Know what’s happening at school…

“Exams and test series are stressful times for teens. Parents can help by creating a calm and supportive environment where they can fully focus without feeling overwhelmed. Watch for red flags and help find solutions if your child’s grades suddenly drop sharply. However, don’t blindly blame your teen, their friends, their phone, or social media! Consider all possible reasons. If necessary, seek academic support in the form of tutors or study groups. Remember, school is incredibly stressful for most kids. Try to focus on your child’s efforts rather than just the results – acknowledge small successes and give positive feedback. Remember, academic performance isn’t everything.”

Help them help themselves…

“Teach your child how to practice self-care and pay attention to their emotional and physical well-being. Encourage your teen to have healthy habits like getting enough sleep, eating healthily, and managing emotions in a healthy way.”

When things go wrong…

“A big part of growing up is that teens will push boundaries and question rules. Along the way, rules – and trust – will be broken. When this happens, talk about it – communication is key to understanding. Give your child the opportunity to express their views about the situation, how they feel about it, and what they have learned. As you walk the path to rebuilding trust as a family, try to recognize and reward your child’s small successes and positive behaviour.”

Look out for your child…

“There are many obstacles to overcome when you’re young, and although teens won’t always admit it, there are clear signs that your child is struggling. It’s very important for parents to be sensitive to these signs and to create a supportive environment where young people feel comfortable discussing their emotions and challenges.”

Hildegard suggests parents watch for the following:

  • No passion for sports or activities: When everything becomes too much, teens can lose their passion for things they usually thrive in.
  • Withdrawal from friends and family: When they have too much on their plate, they may not have the energy to engage with friends and loved ones, often pushing away those closest to them.
  • Tired, burnt out, and depressed: Look for signs of anxiety, depression, or burnout. This often follows a period of intense focus and effort; afterwards, they simply can’t face repeating the process. These signs sometimes also appear after a major disappointment.

Screen time…

Another common conflict between parents and teens is screen time and social media. Hildegard says:

  • Negotiate a reasonable and fair screen time agreement that satisfies both parties.
  • Set clear times and places where phones are not allowed, like at the dinner table or during family activities.
  • Set an example by having boundaries for your own screen and social media use.
  • Discuss the rules from time to time and be willing to make adjustments that suit your teen.
  • Don’t preach about the dangers of social media – your teen is aware of them. If you’re concerned about something, talk honestly about it with your child.

Hildegard is an award-winning South African social media content creator, teen role model, speaker, writer, model, and actress. This formidable fifteen-year-old from Pretoria is passionate about being a voice for young people and uplifting and empowering them wherever she can. Her goal is not only to make the most of the time she has left in school but also to change lives.

“By sharing these tips, I hope to make the journey and learning curve a bit easier for families by helping parents understand how we teens think and feel,” she concludes.

Sources: Hildegard Havenga
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About the Author

Tyler Leigh Vivier is a writer for Good Things Guy.

Her passion is to spread good news across South Africa with a big focus on environmental issues, animal welfare and social upliftment. Outside of Good Things Guy, she is an avid reader and lover of tea.

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