As a father of a 13 and a 15-year-old and a local school governor, I know only too well the stress of the school holidays. While the nation’s children celebrate six weeks of freedom, many parents struggle to fill the vacuum of the regular school routine with a range of activities that are constructive and meaningful.
In an era obsessed with the apparent decline and waywardness of youth, the pressure on parents to perform is increasing.
The intensely private role that mothers and fathers play is under the microscope more than ever before, and is often linked to public policy debates and media scrutiny.
The recent Lever Fabergé Family Report, Parenting Under the Microscope, found that parents of teenagers are facing the hardest years of child rearing.
Many are feeling isolated, anxious and under increasing pressure from government, society and themselves to do a good job.
While parents with young children are well supported by governmental and other organisations, this diminishes as children get older and the job of parenting gets harder.
The report shows that as many as 75% of parents claim that society is more supportive if you have younger children.
For manufacturers and retailers alike, the tough job of parenting has a huge impact on how, where and why people shop; their budgets, their values, their loyalty to brands. The Family Report most strikingly highlights the friction between parents and teens with 40% of parents admitting that shopping causes stress and battles over purchases.
This clearly suggests that there are very different and competing needs at play between parents and teenagers who, on the whole, are very aware of brands.
The question for brand owners and retailers is how can we make parents’ lives easier with regard to their vociferous teenage offspring?
Given for example, the increasing pressure on the family budget, we need to be aware and constantly look to deliver better value to our shoppers.
But it’s not just the products parents buy for their kids that cause strife.
Forty-five per cent of parents claim that their lives would be improved if there were more activities and youth clubs for their children to attend.
Take supermarkets. They are kitted out for parents of young children - there are nappy
changing rooms and special trolleys. But they don’t cater for the teenager.
Today, supermarkets are at the centre of many communities. MPs hold their surgeries there and libraries and medical centres are often all within the same location.
With most parents in our research asking for greater practical help with parenting, it is in retailers and manufacturers’ collective interest to work together to ensure supermarkets are more teenager-friendly.
Retailers have traditionally had a fractious relationship with youths who perhaps loiter on their property, appearing threatening and surly in a way only teenagers can. Is there an intelligent way of including teenagers in this space that is engaging without being patronising, so that they can use it for activities that they want to do?
What’s clear is that we need to start listening to parents - and teenagers - to find ways of making their lives easier.
Retailers have had great success with the parents of younger children; now it is time to continue that success with those who have teenage children.
If consumer loyalty is the nirvana at all stages through the lifecycle, securing it with teenagers today can ensure it continues with the family shoppers of tomorrow.