Posted: 05 September 2018

A mother's letter to her teenagers

Emma Bradley is mum to three children and a former teacher. She blogs about the pressures of the teen years and empowering young people.

In this letter to her teenagers, she addresses the power of words, friends, and feeling comfortable in yourself.

A Letter to my Teenagers

I often wish I could revisit my teenage years, just for a few days. Aunty Faye and I reminisce about our first parties, our school days and the scrapes we sometimes found ourselves in! Only we could get locked out of the house when we were babysitting (we were talking on the doorstep) and have to climb back in through the window whilst the toddler slept!

It’s undoubtedly more stressful to be a teenager now. You are so much more connected to the world around you and not sheltered from inequality and injustice. Global issues haunt you as you see vivid images in your newsfeeds. UK society has got much tougher, with more poverty and more pressures.

On a personal level there are more exams and social media means any mistakes you make are recorded, captured and shared. The first time I got drunk no-one was photographing me and sharing it for the world to see. You don’t have that same anonymity.


There are so many more choices for you now. I went to the local secondary school with most of my primary friends, but now those friendships get dispersed across the city. I sent you both to a school away from your local friends and I know, Dylan, that you found it hard. I saw how unhappy you were initially and my heart broke for you. You are so quiet and such a loyal friend that you didn’t know how to integrate yourself into new groups.

How you look is important to both of you, and I understand why. Teenagers are judged so much more on the labels they wear and the style they choose. No wonder teenagers will take 20 selfies before they are happy with a photo. We had it much easier as there was less consumer choice, although I remember bugging my mum and dad for a shell suit when I was about 14! I hope we get the balance right of not giving you everything (no one wants a spoilt child) but giving you enough to fit in and feel comfortable in your own skin.

Words are powerful

When I was teaching I saw how students sometimes treated each other. There are still double standards between the genders and some of the names girls were called was so upsetting. Why can boys still get away with so much more without being labelled? I want both of you to think about the words you use. Words are so powerful and can hurt far more than a physical blow. Please always be kind.

Tell someone, tell anyone

If ever you or your friends need a supportive ear, I hope you know where to turn. I have always said I don’t expect to know everything about you - I am your mum not your best friend. But I have tried to put people in your life who will always have your back and I hope you use them.

I struggled with my mental health as a teenager and I have watched you both like a hawk in case I ever spot the signs of you slipping. Report after report informs us that more and more children are suffering emotionally and that the UK doesn’t do well in terms of happiness. That scares me because I understand the darkness of depression.

If ever you see those you love sinking, speak up. Aunty Faye had to do that for me and yes it led to a huge argument at the time, but look now, she is the only one that has been my constant friend. Sometimes being a friend may mean making a difficult decision, but true friendships stand the test of time.

Likewise if ever you are struggling emotionally, tell someone, tell anyone as it’s a huge weight to carry on your own. Finding the words is hard but it will lead to things getting better. Never think it is better to keep quiet.

I have really enjoyed parenting you as teenagers. Watching you becoming adults is a privilege and I hope that you know how much we love you.

Love Mum 


 The Good Childhood Report has revealed how important close family relationships are. If you're a parent looking for advice, read more about our top tips for communicating with your teenager. 



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