Parents of teens struggling with workplace support, despite older kids needing them more than ever

Teens need just as much input as very young children

Mother hugging her teenage daughter
(Image credit: Getty Images)

There are few resources and initiatives in the workplace supporting parents with teens, meaning mothers are driven out of the workplace to care for older children - just as they were when their kids were very young.

There appears to be a common misconception over just how difficult parenting teenagers can be, and employers seem to be overlooking this a lot in the workplace. From being part of an 'anxious generation' and mental health problems on the rise, leading to teens who will not socialise or even leave their rooms, this age group really need their parents more than ever. 

While maternity leave, dedicated healthcare staff and support groups exist for those who have just given birth, there are no such systems in place for parents of teens. Because of this, those caring for this age group are once again having to curb their work commitments, or even take 'teen-ternity' leave to care for their children - once again, mothers are the ones putting their careers on hold to take the reigns and care for the older children who still need them.

Speaking to the Financial Times, leading expert in working parenthood Daisy Dowling, believes the rising incidence in mental health issues in teens is a key factor in needing their parents in the current climate - with almost one in five children aged 7-17 considered to have a mental disorder, this number has been rising steadily since 2017.

Daisy Dowling acknowledges the virtually non-existent employer initiatives and resources available for those parenting older children, explaining "The parents of teenagers are almost invisible. Ninety-eight per cent of resources are targeted at people who are going out on parental leave and returning."

"The parents of teenagers are almost invisible. Ninety-eight per cent of resources are targeted at people who are going out on parental leave and returning."

Daisy Dowling

During this time in their lives mothers are themselves experiencing demetrescence - the process of adapting to the changing needs of their teen children amid a mid-life hormonal storm. The combined impact of unexpected needs of older children and also little support available in the workplace for menopausal women, can make this stage even more difficult to navigate if time off is needed.

Mum-of-two Jenny, is one parent who had to make unexpected career changes to parent her teens. She tell us "When my children went to school, I retrained to do the job I'd always wanted to do, and finally thought I'd have the time and space to follow my own career path and not continue in the corporate one I'd been trapped in since I'd left uni and hated. But once my kids started secondary school, I'd completely underestimated how much the stress would affect their health and how much they'd need me. 

In my new job, I worked mainly with young people who didn't have children, and there was zero flexibility or understanding about my situation despite how friendly my colleagues were. I ended up taking a job I didn't really want just because it meant I could be there for my children in the evenings and school holidays. It really was just like they were very little again with how much they seem to need me. I'm not sure when I'll ever make it back to the dream job that I left behind."

With 13 per cent of parents taking time away from work to help teens with mental health problems or leaving their jobs completely, employers need to be more aware of the nuances of parenting this age group. Statutory time off for parents to care for older children allows them up to four weeks unpaid leave per year for each child, which is capped at 18 weeks - this is also unpaid, meaning a policy overhaul is needed to allow parents to care for children sufficiently without added implications of financial stress.

For more on parenting teens, if your teenager won't talk to you, try our expert-backed tips on how to talk to a teenager. If you're wondering how independent should a teenager be, we have some helpful advice.

Lucy Wigley
Parenting writer - contributing

Lucy is a mum-of-two, multi-award nominated writer and blogger with six years’ of experience writing about parenting, family life, and TV. Lucy has contributed content to PopSugar and In the last three years, she has transformed her passion for streaming countless hours of television into specialising in entertainment writing. There is now nothing she loves more than watching the best shows on television and sharing why you - and your kids - should watch them.