Family Life

Your Matric teen is currently grappling with major adult decisions. Here’s how to guide and support them.

You may still think of them as your baby, but the Matric class of 2024 is entering the world of adulthood. Zain Julies, a counselling psychologist, says teens experience stress similarly to adults, although the content of what causes the stress may be different. “For example, teens worry about high expectations, parental approval, peer pressure, their bodies, drug and alcohol use, and hormones,” she says. “They’re figuring out who they are and how they show up in the world.”

3 ways to know if your teenager is stressed

Moodiness is common in teens, “but it can be hard to notice when they’re stressed because they’re good at hiding their feelings”, notes Julies. However, she identifies three key factors to consider:

  1. The level of daily life disruptions. “Has there been a change in their daily functioning and to what extent?”
  2. Length of time. “If it's longer than a month for low mood and two weeks for anxiety and stress, then it’s probably more than just moodiness.”
  3. Areas of life affected. “If there’s more than one area of their life that’s affected the situation may be more serious.”

When they don’t want to talk

Getting your teen to open up to you can be frustrating, but don’t try and force them to do something they don’t want to. “First, don’t pressure them to share their feelings. If they say no, or not now, then respect that. Second, look for cues that they may be ready to talk and make yourself available to listen. Don’t judge and don’t make assumptions. Third, if they do come to you with a problem, ask them what they would like you to do to help.”

Common anxieties and how you can help

Julies shares tips on how to support your Matric teen through some of the decisions they may be facing right now.

What to do after school: “Pick up the clues. What subjects do they talk about and what are they proud of in terms of their performance? Also, who are their favourite teachers? Making suggestions around that might be more easily received.”

Failing or not doing as well as they’d hoped: “Validate the feelings they have about their performance and tell them your love for them is not based on their performance. Then talk about possible solutions and what they would feel comfortable trying out.”

Transition from school to university/college: “Your high school achiever is about to enter a much tougher playing field. Be straightforward with them about what they can expect in terms of support. Lecturers have a different role to teachers. Keep their expectations of themselves realistic and set SMART goals (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, time-based).”

Peer pressure around alcohol, drugs or having sex: “This starts early on with always having an open-door policy that doesn’t judge or criticise. Practise your poker face, but always come from a place of concern and not punishment.”

If you feel your teen needs more support, visit to find a psychologist in your area.