The teenage years can bring joys and challenges for families from all cultures and communities. Sons and daughters are growing, changing and learning skills for adult life. There can be extra challenges for teenagers in a new culture.
Teenagers in a new culture
Teenagers coming to Australia face many changes. These could include:
- learning about a new country and culture
- speaking or learning a different language
- sometimes translating for their family
- getting used to a new school system
- trying to fit in and make friends. This is very important to them.
Some teenagers may be affected by past hardship, violence or loss of people and places they love. They are also going through the big physical and emotional changes that happen to all teenagers during these years.
Teenagers can feel they are living between two cultures and face challenges in both. Parents have an important role in guiding teenagers and helping them learn to make good decisions for themselves.
The good news is that most teenagers adapt, learn and do well in Australia.
Parents and teenagers are getting used to life in Australia. Working things out together can help keep you close.
What parents can do
Teenagers are trying to work out how to belong in a new country. Parents can help by:
- talking with them often and understanding what life is like for them in Australia
- listening to their ideas and how they feel
- helping them have friends. If you are not happy with their choices, explain why
- supporting their learning at school
- having clear and reasonable family rules
- involving teenagers in family activities
- helping them learn to solve problems
- getting help from schools or other services when needed.
Making new friends and staying connected to family and culture helps teenagers stay strong.
Safety and health
Parents can help teenagers learn:
- to use public transport and roads safely
- about internet safety
- to swim, and be safe at the beach, rivers, dams
- to cook, clean and look after themselves
- to eat well, be active, and get lots of sleep
- about alcohol, drugs, safe sex, contraception and sexuality. If these are hard to talk about, help them find good information.
Make sure teenagers know how to get help when they need it, and have other trusted adults to talk to.
Teenagers need parents to help keep them safe. It is OK to say 'No' when you need to.
Conflict between parents and teenagers
Common causes of conflict include:
- parents feeling teenagers are challenging their authority or losing their culture
- teenagers seeing friends as having more freedom and wanting this too.
Some teenagers who speak more English than their parents may take advantage of them, such as misusing family money.
If there is conflict, it can help to:
- stay calm - listen to how your son or daughter feels
- listen to their ideas, even if you don't agree
- solve problems together.
It is important to have limits that keep teenagers safe. Make sure these are reasonable and explain why they are important to you.
If teenagers don't do as expected, listen to their reasons and agree what will work better next time. This can be hard but be patient. Punishing teenagers might mean they obey but they miss the chance to practise solving problems. Harsh physical punishment is against the law.
If you feel angry, do things that help to calm you. You could agree to talk later when everyone is calm.
If teenagers talk about their 'rights' in Australia, you can check the facts with a legal advice line or other service. You can ask for an interpreter.
If there is violence
Everyone has the right to feel safe and respected, including parents. Some teenagers use violence towards family members, especially women. This is never OK in any community or culture. It is against the law in Australia. Violence may be:
- physical, such as hitting, pushing
- emotional, such as making threats, shaming
- controlling what people do, who they see, or their access to money.
If this is happening:
- there are services that can support parents and help teenagers learn better ways. Phone the Police on 000 if there is immediate danger
- never use violence yourself.
Parents and teenagers are welcome to talk with teachers. They can help with many problems.
If you are concerned about your teenager, you can get help from doctors, schools or other services. If your teenager has been affected by past events such as war, violence or hardship, there are services that can help.