Parenting Teenagers: Helpful Advice For The Teen Years

Updated December 8, 2022 by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Parenting teenagers may bring new challenges and unique situations compared to having a baby or young child. However, you and your teen may make it through together with the right support, resources, and perseverance. 

Adolescents often experience unique challenges in their stage of life, and understanding teens' mental health can be beneficial when trying to learn how to handle stressful or problematic behaviors. 

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Are You Struggling In Your Role As A Parent To A Teenager?

Strategies For Raising A Teenager

Raising a child may feel challenging, especially when they hit the teen years. You might choose to be supportive of them by: 

  • Slowly allowing them more freedom

  • Being a positive role model

  • Stepping into their shoes

  • Validating their feelings

  • Talking to them about essential topics

  • Knowing the signs of various mental health conditions

  • Being present for them, physically and mentally 

While many children may require an individualized approach to parenting as they grow up, you can also follow general guidelines to help yourself establish a parenting style that works for your family. 

Though you might need to adapt as your child grows into a teenager, consider thinking about the foundation you'd like to lay for them as they become a young adult. 

Offer Freedom In Logical Levels

As a parent, you may choose to set rules for your children to follow as they grow. However, the older they get, they may start looking for freedom or wanting to branch out more. 

ABC indicates that allowing your child freedom can help them build healthy emotional and mental health practices. As your young child becomes a teenager, you may notice that they start to push away from their family life. 

If you continue holding them to the same rules and restrictions they had when they were young, you may notice that they try to rebel against it. While giving your teenager more freedom as they go through adolescence may be valuable, consider starting small and still acting as a parental figure in your child's life. 

Studies show that setting rules can still be valuable to the mental health of your teenage child. Adolescence is often a time when significant physical and emotional changes occur. Setting rules and boundaries may help your child feel that they still have a routine and familiarity when other areas of their life feel scary. 

Consider making minor changes to how you set rules as your child grows. Explaining why you created the rules that you have may make teens want to respect and follow them. You might also choose to involve your child in the conversation about the rules they should follow. 

As they age, you can revisit rules together to discuss which ones they feel are necessary and which ones may be able to change. Try to be clear about any consequences of breaking a rule. For example, if they struggle to complete homework, you might take away their privilege to go out with friends until they finish their daily assignments. 

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Teens May Look To You As A Role Model 

Your child may sometimes communicate that they feel misunderstood by you. At the same time, they could be watching and learning from you as a role model. Since their brains are still growing, young people are often impressionable. Studies show that kids of all ages and cultures imitate their parents to learn.  

If your child sees you model healthy communication and active listening, they could try to repeat the behavior with their peers or in romantic relationships. On the other hand, they may take on negative behavioral patterns if they find it normalized in their family environment. 

Consider teaching your teen child how to take care of themselves properly. Model for them what self-care looks like and encourage your kids to participate in self-soothing activities. Teach them about healthy eating habits, sleep habits, and the importance of learning how to manage stress.

Remember What It Was Like To Be Their Age

It may feel like a long time ago that you were a teenager. Even so, you might remember some of your challenges or experiences at their age. When you get frustrated with your teen, think about what you did to cope in similar situations. 

Remembering your own transition period of adolescence may enable you to empathize with your kids and understand where they are coming from as you're parenting them. 

You may remember challenging your parents as you worked to find your place in the world. Or you may remember the pressure you experienced to succeed in high school or fit in with the crowd. Perhaps you reacted emotionally to a short-term relationship breakup or school drama. 

Regaining perspective about these experiences can help parents interact with their kids. Your child may not be so different from you, even in a different generation. 

Validate Them

Take the time to praise your teen for who they are, not what they do. It can feel worthwhile to compliment them on something that they've achieved. However, you may also want to build them up for their positive characteristics. 

Reminding your child of what you love about them may help them develop healthy self-esteem and self-respect instead of feeling pressure to perform well to receive praise or acceptance. 

In a world of social media, studies show that teens report high levels of body image issues by interacting with apps such as TikTok. Reminding your teen that their body, mind, and soul are beautiful may benefit their mental health. 

Your teen may not show how much your validation means to them. However, they could still take it to heart and appreciate your comments. Teens may experience their emotions alone, but the more you compliment and lift them up, the more comfortable they may feel connecting with you on a deeper level. 

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Are You Struggling In Your Role As A Parent To A Teenager?

Talk To Your Teen About Sex

It may feel uncomfortable for parents to talk to their children about sex. You may have already had "the talk" with them and feel your job is done. Still, keeping the conversation open after the fact can be helpful. Consider checking in every few years to see if they have any questions. 

There may be pressure on teens from students and other peers to be sexually active. Provide your child with a safe place to turn for support and guidance. If your teen finds that you are judgmental or dismissive when they come to talk to you about sensitive conversations, they may try to find their information online or from a young friend. 

You may want to talk to your teen about accurate information. For example, you might ask them about the types of sexual content they've been exposed to and how they feel about it. You may choose to discuss the disconnect from reality that can exist in pornography and that peer conversations may not always reflect healthy behaviors. 

If you struggle to talk to your child about these subjects, consider ordering a book or referring them to an online video that explains it. Then, ask them if they have any questions to bring to you after reviewing it. 

Learn To Spot Mental Health Concerns In Teens

Teens often deal with stress, anxiety, and depression at an increasing rate. You may provide support by teaching them healthy coping skills to manage their emotions. It could also be valuable to let them know they can come to you when they're feeling down. 

Because of changes in society and the addition of technology, many teens face challenges that their parents didn't experience when they were younger. For example, they may feel intense pressure to succeed and keep up with their social life, activities, and schoolwork on top of online life.  

The social climate may wear on your children and lead to problems with anxiety or depression. As a parent, try to recognize the signs that your teen could be struggling. 

Signs of a mental health condition could include symptoms such as the following: 

  • A loss of energy

  • Changes in sleeping or eating habits

  • Restlessness or feeling easily agitated

  • Sudden decline in school performance

  • Self-harm

  • Talk of suicide

  • Chronic pain, headaches, or digestive issues

If you believe your teen could be struggling, take action to ensure they have the support they need. You might work with their counselor at school, help them get accommodations for their classes, or reach out to a therapist. 

If you or a loved one are experiencing suicidal thoughts, seek help immediately. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached at 1-800-273-8255 and is available 24/7. You or your teen can also text 988 to receive support over SMS. 

Make Yourself Available 

As a parent, your life could be busy as well. However, try to let your teen know that you'll make yourself available whenever you can. They may not need their parent as much as they did when they were younger, but they might still want to talk or connect with you. 

During these conversations, give them your undivided attention as they speak. Don't allow others to interrupt, and try not to be distracted by your phone. Listen to them before responding, and consider repeating what they said to check if you understood correctly. 

Counseling For Parents 

Raising children of any age can feel challenging for parents. You may not always know what the "right" action could be. Turning to a professional may be valuable if you need up-to-date medical advice. 

A therapist can help you deal with the stress that parenting can bring. They may also have research-based coping mechanisms to help you handle parenting an adolescent. If you feel too busy to attend a therapy session, you might consider online counseling. 

Online therapy can make accessing support more accessible and convenient by connecting you virtually with a therapist. You can use your device alongside an internet connection to begin arranging sessions according to your schedule.

Online therapy has been shown to be effective for various concerns related to mental health and parenting. A recent study assessed parental mental health outcomes and found that those caring for someone experienced improvements in caregiver stress, depression, and strain after online treatment. The same study also found similar outcomes for children who made improvements in conditions like OCD, ADHD, and anxiety disorders.  

If you want to try online therapy, consider a platform such as BetterHelp, which can connect you to a counselor who matches your specific needs as a parent and individual. 

Takeaway

As you parent, try to increase compassion for yourself. Parenting is often a learning process. You may not always feel prepared for every situation with your teen.  

Addressing your challenges with a licensed therapist may help you and your teen move forward and learn new skills. Consider reaching out to a counselor to get started. 

Takeaway

For Additional Help & Support With Your Concerns

Speak with a Licensed Therapist
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