How Not to Support Your Teenage Child – The 2 Common Mistakes

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I've been straight up in this article because I'm honestly pretty sick of it. Don't read it if you aren't available for criticism.
How to Support Your Children

As a former tutor and now academic coach and mentor, I work very closely with students and parents. The level of understanding that I’m able to reach with my students is much deeper than most teachers who are juggling dozens of students simultaneously.

Most of my students are attempting to enter into competitive degrees and are thrust into high-stress environments. It’s in these environments that I can see the positive and negative effects of family influence.

These are the two most common ways I have seen parents negatively impact their child’s success, performance and overall experience.


Before I dive into these in more detail, I want to make it very clear the scope of which I am making these statements.

I clearly understand the nature of “necessary discomfort”. I understand that an easy path is not the best path for a student. I have spent years reading the research on learning psychology and parenting best practices.

The two ways I am going to mention in this article are what I would consider significantly and irrefutably negative. Effects that offer so little benefit compared to the negative repercussion that there is no conceivable reason that it would be recommended.

#1 – Ignoring Mental Health Help

Time for some facts.

Mental health is at an all-time low, especially in youth. And it isn’t because later generations have become “softer”. It’s because of the environment and societal change. The expectations and situations evolve and become further and further from what we have biologically evolved to be able to handle.

Our environments and pressures are now so artificial that babies born today are vastly underequipped to deal with them.

With that being said, my students are performing in high-stress environments where they are aiming to be the top 10% from amongst a pool of the nations top 20%.

In my experience, around 20% of all students in these cohorts are made unable to continue because of dangerously deteriorating mental health.

They need support.

Many times, they need someone who can understand what they are going through, why they are thinking and feeling the way they are. They need someone who’s advice is targetted, accurate, reliable and confidential.

Like a drowning person needs a lifeguard, they need professional help; help from someone whose job and entire training revolve around helping people in these situations. Someone whose training is so rigorous that they need to study between 5 to 10 years to achieve the minimum level of competency.

In other words, not the armchair advice of their uncle who once watched an episode of Dr Phil.

Many times, the largest barrier to these students receiving meaningful support is because of the fixed, irrational, and conservative views of their family and parents around mental health.

I have had more students than I can count who have dropped out of university for 99% this reason. I have had (and currently have) students who are working extra hours at their part-time job and secretly paying for a therapist so that their parents don’t find out.

I’m going to be straight up here.

I see this much more with Indian, Sri Lankan, and East Asian families. And I know the culture in these countries is aligned with this type of obstructive behaviour. My students that live in these countries message me often about how their hands are tied due to the abysmal mental health support in those countries and the extreme level of stigma.

It’s disgusting and I hate it. I have no desire to mince words. It’s broken and it needs to change. If you feel attacked by this statement – buy yourself a mirror.

#2 – Having Illogical Good Intentions

Let me explain because I understand that it’s a very confusing heading.

Most parents have good intentions for their child. But the execution of those intentions is often very entrenched in their preconceived notions.

Many parents are unwilling to challenge their beliefs or learn more about how to support their child in the most effective way.

Effort and intention are certainly not lacking, but critical thinking definitely is.

As a result, parents funnel time and money into tutoring and other “solutions” that can actually make things worse.

Here is an exercise you can do to see if you are falling into this trap.

List the main things you are doing to support your child. Next to each of these, explain why and how it will benefit your child in the long-term. Then ask yourself, how sure are you, and where does your level of confidence come from?

If you can’t explain it clearly, you need to talk to an expert or read some articles written by one. If you have high confidence but it comes from just “general life experience” or “intuition”, you need to do the same thing.

If you’re looking to do the best for your child, but you’re not sure exactly how, please feel free to reach out to discuss with me. It’s a much easier conversation to have than how to recover lost opportunities, mitigate damage, or prepare for alternatives.

Justin Sung

Justin Sung

Dr Justin Sung is a former medical doctor who now works in education and social enterprise. He has guided thousands of individuals towards living and learning more efficiently for nearly 10 years and is the founder of Foster Our Future, JTT and Finding Gravity.

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