Older People and the Effects of Raising Teens

By Leyla Norman
Older parents may put their children first in their lives.
Older parents may put their children first in their lives.

Parents who put off the decision to have kids may have relished their freedom or pursued careers. Some couples want to wait until they are financially stable or perhaps have trouble getting pregnant. When their kids become teens, the effects on the parents can be challenging as well as positive in ways that differ from younger parents. Older parents are in a unique position as caregivers, and the stresses and joys of parenting can affect them accordingly.

Life Experience

Older parents raising teenagers have a wealth of life experience from which to draw. They know who they are as individuals. Older parents may have more flexibility in their schedules that comes through gaining a stable career or retirement. They may make it a habit to spend more time with their children, and this can help build a stronger relationship as the child becomes a teenager. In fact, in a report from the Council of Economic Advisers from President Clinton’s administration, children who reported they felt close to a parent had significantly fewer incidences of typical teenager problems like doing drugs, getting pregnant and drinking alcohol.

Confidence and Less Stress

Older parents can also benefit from having less stress in their lives about being parents. Younger parents typically do not adapt as well to being parents as older parents, according to the Australian parenting website Raising Children Network. Older parents have seen and done more in their lives, and they are better able to prioritize areas of parenting that need most of their attention. Little things like a dirty room can be less worrisome to an older parent than a younger one who wants to do everything right as she raises her children. Dr. Jerome Kagan, a Harvard psychology professor, was quoted by Andrew L. Yarrow of "The New York Times" in 1987 as saying, “Older mothers tend to be calmer, more rational and are more relaxed with their children,” and because of this, children are less likely to experience anxiousness and conflict. However, older parents should balance this with setting boundaries for their children and focus on being a parent instead of a friend, says psychologist Barbara Greenberg, Ph.D., of ThirdAge.com, a website focused on serving "boomer and beyond" women.

Energy and End of Life

Older parents may feel that they have less energy to keep up with their teens than younger parents. After-school practices, parties, boyfriends, girlfriends, fashion, and all the drama that goes with being a teenager can be exhausting for any parent, but this is especially so for older parents. Raising teens as an older parent can also cause worry that way too soon, the teen will turn into a young adult who must put his life on hold to take care of an aging parent. This can cause older parents to feel apprehension and guilt.

Generation Gap

Older parents are likely to have different values and priorities in life than their teens. Teenagers and parents do not often agree anyway, but the large age gap between parents and children may exacerbate this difficult phase. Greenberg suggests that older parents learn as much as possible about popular teenage culture to better close the age gap that separates them from their teenagers’ lives. Parents might learn who the latest and greatest singers and actors are, read a teenage fashion or sports magazine or surf websites popular with their teens.

About the Author

Leyla Norman has been a writer since 2008 and is a certified English as a second language teacher. She also has a master's degree in development studies and a Bachelor of Arts in anthropology.