Parenting Teenagers: Helpful Advice For The Teen Years
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.
Strategies For Raising A Teenager
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Why is parenting a teenager so hard?
Teens are going through many physical, mental, and emotional changes, and their feelings may reflect that. These changes include more challenging schoolwork, the pressure surrounding sex, alcohol, or drugs, self-esteem issues, new relationships with friends, peers, and romantic interests, and other concerns. They are also starting to become more independent, which may mean they are not as big a part of their parents’ lives anymore. Since they are no longer young kids, they may feel disrespected if you continue to treat them as if they are. This can make it difficult to know how to react as a parent. Luckily, you can still watch over your child while giving them space to grow.
Part of the reason it can be difficult to raise teenagers is that it’s a delicate balance between parenting too much or too little. You want your teenager to feel like they can trust and talk to you, but also ensure that they respect the rules and boundaries you’ve created for them. Of course, there’s going to be a risk that they get their feelings hurt or react negatively to something you do; but being able to stick to your rules is a sign of healthy parenting.
How can I be a better mom to my teenager?
There are many things you can do as a parent to support your teenager. Giving teens support can be as simple as making sure you eat meals together regularly so that you can spend time with them and talk about their lives. While they may not come to you for guidance as much as they used to, your relationship is still important, and you can still be a huge influence.
You’ve probably seen this in parenting books many times before, but it’s worth repeating—communication is key. When you are able to have a conversation about your teen’s life, be sure to let them speak and focus on listening, rather than immediately trying to solve their problems for them. As parents, letting your child know that their feelings are valid and heard can go a long way toward creating a healthy relationship.
Even though your kids are starting to become more independent when they’re teenagers, family time is still important. Parents can find new ways of including their teens in activities. Your kids may not have been interested in your hobbies when they were younger but could be more inclined to participate in them as teens.
How do you raise a good teenager?
As parents, there are many things you can do to support your teens. For many families, communication is paramount when it comes to parenting teenagers. Even though your child might not seek your advice as often as they used to, what you say can still influence them. As your kids go through adolescence, take every chance you get to discuss what’s going on in their lives. Teenagers these days have a lot to contend with, so a chat with their parents may be just what they need.
It is, of course, going to be necessary to set out some new rules as your kids mature into young adults and your relationship starts to change. This could mean a later curfew, allowing them to have more screen time, and letting them spend more time with fellow students and other peers. While parents will likely want to give their teens more leniency in some areas, it’s good to maintain sensible rules and healthy boundaries.
Parents can also set healthy examples through their behavior. Parents who practice healthy habits, treat their children with respect, communicate effectively, and do other things to model positive behavior are setting a solid foundation for their kids. If teens notice that their parents angrily respond to difficult situations or shut down instead of talking things through, they can be more apt to display that type of behavior themselves. Instead of just telling their teens what to do, parents can show them what to do.