The Teen Years By Kate Orson

I have been overwhelmed with the response to this series, from both the readers and to the people who have wanted to take part. This week I am featuring the wonderful Kate Orson. Kate, as many of you will know, is an author, and many will be familiar with her widely acclaimed giggle parenting approach to bringing up children. Kate is a mum to a five year old daughter, so a long way from the teen years but her answers are so insightful you would believe that she had heaps of experience with this age of anticipated anguish.

I know it's a long way off but what are you dreading about your child/children becoming teens?

I used to really dread the teenage years. I think the thought of them almost put me off becoming a mum! I used to wonder what was the point of showering your child with love, only to have them grow up and become moody and withdrawn. Then I started learning about a parenting approach called Hand in Hand Parenting which focuses on listening to children’s feelings and building close connections with them. The stories I heard from Hand in Hand about parents who were close and connected to their teenagers were so encouraging. I started realising that the stereotypical view of teenagers has a lot to do with our society’s attitude to emotions. Most parenting advice centres on trying to control children’s emotions rather than help children to express them. A lot of children grow up with an emotional backpack full of unexpressed feelings that then come out through their behaviour. I realised that the typical moody teenager is actually just one who needs some listening and connection. Now I’m looking forward to the teenage years, (almost!)

The one thing that I am dreading though is how the internet is changing our lives. There is a really scary statistic that 42% of children have seen porn online. There are some scary articles about how teenagers are really confused about what sex is because what they know of it is pornography. I decided to get some age appropriate books for talking about sex after reading this really helpful blog post. ( I’m not going to bombard my daughter with information, but I do want to make sure that she knows that she can come to me if she has questions, and that we can be open about it, so that she knows that sex is about love and relationships, not porn.

 What are you looking forward to? 

I’m really looking forward to the conversations we’ll have. My daughter is such a chatterbox. I’ve never been a particularly girly girl, but we love our girl time together. And I’m looking forward to watching her grow up and see what she’ll do.

As a parent, what issues do you imagine are important when raising teens?

I imagine it’s important to be there, and to balance giving your teen freedom with making sure they don’t go off the rails. I think it must be tricky though! To know when to set limits, and how. It’s pretty easy when they are toddlers, but I can imagine that a teenager could just ignore you and go out and slam the front door! I guess it all comes back to connection though. That if you have a deep connection with your teen, they will respect you, and your judgement.

What kind of parent do you think or hope (!) you'll be when your child/children are/is in their teen years?

I hope I’ll be the kind of parent that my daughter knows she can come and talk to me about anything. I read a really interesting book called Hold Onto Your Kids By Gordon Neufeld, and Gabor Mate, which explains how it’s normalized in our society for our children to detach from us, and attach more to their peer group. I hope that my daughter and I will remain friends, and confidantes, even as she builds close friendships with her peers and goes out into the world.

Is there any advice that you would give your child/children before they get to the teen stage?

Hmmm. I think my advice would be – do what you love. As you get older there’s a lot of pressure from the education system, to follow a particular path, to get the good grades, and go to university. But in the end that can leave you feeling a bit unhappy because you’ve listened to others rather than that voice of inner knowing inside of yourself that knows exactly what you love to do. I’m a bit of a risk taker, so I’d say, do what you love, believe in yourself, work hard, and find a way to earn money living your dream.

Do you envisage raising teens to be an easier stage than raising littles?

I’ve heard that it is the same amount of work, but different. For example with teens we may not be parenting 24-7, but it’s a lot of emotional work, worrying about who they’re with or what time they are coming home. And I’ve also heard that we may need to make ourselves available for whenever our teen does decide to open up. It could be midnight, when they feel like talking about what’s on their mind. So we may end up just as tired and sleep-deprived as we did in the baby-stage! I hope not!

Kate, I think you have just become my expert in raising teens! Thank you so much for such wonderful and informative answers that have given me heaps of tips on raising my teens. I loved your perspective on the fact that the moody teenager just needs someone who will listen to them and connect with them. They need to feel that trust and love for sure. I feel I could talk to you for hours about this subject.  What you've achieved here, with your answers, is an approach to parenting teens that is open, communicative and informed which will hopefully lead to an easier journey of raising teens for both the parent and the child. I wish you had written a teenager book! Let me know if you ever do as would love to collaborate with you - I seem to have heaps of material ... just saying!


Kate is a Hand in Hand Parenting instructor, and mum to a five year old. Her first book Tears Heal: How To Listen To Our Children is out now. She blogs at Follow her on Facebook at and twitter,


helen sandle