Parenting Adolescents: Tips For Navigating The Teen Years

Medically reviewed by Dr. April Brewer, DBH, LPC
Updated May 3, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Parenting teenagers can be rewarding and exciting, as you get to watch and support them in learning how to manage newfound independence, responsibilities, and new types of relationships. At times, however, parents may also feel overwhelmed when helping their teenagers successfully navigate the challenges that come with growing into young adulthood. Here are a few parenting advice and tips for teenagers to help you raise balanced, healthy adolescents.

Parents sometimes need support to raise thriving teens

Understand your parenting style

Culture parental morality, religion, and a parent’s own experiences as a child's childhood experiences play a large part in shaping parenting styles. That said, some aspects of an individual or couple’s parenting style may evolve as their children grow. For instance, as your kids enter their teenage years, they may require a gradual increase in freedom to begin making their own decisions. Being open and attentive to the possibility of adjusting your parenting style can be important in this stage of your child’s life.

While it’s good to give your teenager more freedom as they go through adolescence, full freedom isn’t recommended. However, you may find it helpful to change the way that you set rules, for example. Communicating with your teen about how and why you establish certain rules may result in a higher likelihood that they’ll follow them. It may also encourage cooperation and dialogue about how the rules will change as they mature.

When setting rules and expectations, it's typically also a good idea to communicate clearly what the consequences are for breaking them. Reacting with a form of punishment without first setting clear expectations may confuse and reduce the likelihood that your teen will follow subsequent rules.

Lead by example


Even though they’re becoming increasingly independent at this age, teens are still impressionable. They take cues from their parents' behavior to learn how to act in the world. So when parenting teenagers, it’s important to stay mindful of your actions and how you speak to them and others. Positive role models can be a powerful force in a teen’s life. So as they become more independent, it’s a good idea to model the behaviors you expect from your teenager. These may include:

  • Honesty
  • Responsibility
  • Healthy conflict resolution
  • Strong work ethic
  • Empathy
  • Accountability
  • Caring for one’s mental and physical health

With your good example, your teen can build a sense of purpose, autonomy, and self-esteem.

Maintain a sense of empathy

Over time, it’s common for adults to forget the challenges they faced as teenagers or how intense those things may have felt at the time. Although teenagers today face different challenges than those of past generations, upon reflection, you’ll likely find that you experienced some of the same difficulties when you were their age. At the very least, you can understand that the slew of physical and social changes adolescents go through in this stage of life is objectively difficult and extend some grace as a result.

When parenting a teen, it can be helpful to recall the challenges of adolescence and how they made you feel. Thinking about similar mistakes you may have made at their age can also help you develop fair punishments if those boundaries are breached, for example. 

Connection is another potential benefit to practicing empathy with your teen. If you feel comfortable giving, communicate with your child about some of the difficult situations you experienced when you were their age. Consequently, they may be more willing to listen to your viewpoints on matters of discipline and decision-making. 

Provide ample encouragement

Most younger children respond well to praise for doing well on a task, or for good behavior. As they grow into adolescence, positive reinforcement often remains just as impactful when applied to issues of self-identity and how they express their character—even if it doesn’t seem like your teen is receptive to this kind of encouragement. 

A parent must be equipped with self-esteem tips for teenagers. Low self-confidence is very common in the teenage years, hence the importance of building their confidence. When parenting teens, consider making it a point to build them up for the positive characteristics they possess, it may encourage their development of healthy self-esteem.

It can also be helpful to teach your teenager how to cultivate a sense of self-compassion in the face of failures, flaws, and shortcomings, which research shows may provide them with even greater emotional resilience than self-esteem can.

Parents sometimes need support to raise thriving teens

Talk about risky behaviors

Speaking with your teen about topics like sex, drugs, and alcohol can be important at this age, along with subjects like violence or dangerous driving. Even though these conversations may be uncomfortable for both of you, making sure your child is equipped to make healthy decisions about these things can be important. What’s more, risky behaviors can sometimes be a sign that a teen is struggling with their mental health, so opening up a dialogue with your child about potentially harmful activities may be worthwhile.

While the prospect of these potentially awkward conversations may be daunting, many experts maintain that it’s essential for parents to address these things. As they get older, it might seem as if your teen doesn’t want to hear from you, and that speaking with them about these or other topics is an exercise in futility.

However, according to a publication from Promoting Positive Adolescent Health Behaviors and Outcomes, “Adolescents frequently drift away from their parents and toward peer groups. Yet despite this trend, parents continue to play an important role in adolescents' lives”.

Know the signs of anxiety and depression in teens

From academic pressure to social concerns and the impact of social media, there are plenty of stressors in the life of the average teen. Since healthy coping skills for teens typically have to be learned, it’s not uncommon for teens to lack them at this age and to develop unhealthy coping mechanisms and even mental health conditions as a result. As a parent, it’s important to learn how to recognize the signs that your teen could be facing difficulties with their mental health. These can include things like:

  • Loss of energy
  • Significant changes in sleeping or eating habits
  • Restlessness or being easily agitated
  • A persistent sense of hopelessness or worthlessness
  • A sudden decline in academic performance
  • Chronic pain, headaches, or digestive issues that can’t be otherwise explained

While there are coping skills for teens that may help, they’re often reluctant to ask for help with mental health concerns. If you believe that your teen could be facing challenges with their mental health, it’s important to be able to notice them and offer the resources they may need for support even though communicating with teens can be challenging but is also very important to help them.

If you feel that your child may benefit from speaking with a licensed therapist, you might consider a virtual therapy platform like TeenCounseling which is designed specifically for individuals in their age group (age 13–18).

Make yourself available to talk

If encouraging your child to go to a struggling teen therapy is not ideal for your situation, consider making an effort to make yourself available. Many parents lead busy lives in addition to the activities related to raising their families. As your child approaches their teen years and becomes more independent, her other obligations may become naturally easier to balance. It may be tempting to shift your focus more often to these other areas, but it’s important to remember that your teen may not yet be as independent as they seem and may still need your guidance more than they express. 

Even if your time is limited, and even if it seems like they’re reluctant to engage in conversation, it’s typically essential to be available when your teenager needs you. Checking in with them regularly and practicing active listening when you do can show your teen that you care, you’re there for them, and they can come to you when they’re facing challenges.

Seek professional help  

When seeking support in raising a teen, parents often turn to friends, family, or their communities for help. That said, many parents find the added guidance of a trained professional to be helpful as well. A licensed therapist who specializes in family dynamics may be able to assist you and your teen in better understanding each other and developing more successful methods of communication. You may also find it beneficial for your teen to visit a therapist on their own to discuss issues they don’t feel comfortable speaking about around you, especially if you are concerned about their mental health. Additionally, you may find it helpful to get individual support from a therapist for the many challenges of parenting teenagers.

Parents often put their family’s health first and may sometimes neglect their own as a result. However, you deserve to care for your mental health, and it can help you be a more present, engaged parent as well. If carving out time to meet with a therapist seems overwhelming or impossible, you might consider online options that make it easy to speak to a therapist on your schedule from anywhere with an internet connection. 

According to the National Center for Health Research, “online therapy can be as effective at treating issues of anxiety, depression, and trauma” as in-person services. If you’re interested in this format, you can get matched with a licensed therapist through an online therapy platform like BetterHelp, and you can meet with them via phone, video call, and/or in-app messaging to get the support you may need.

If you are experiencing trauma, support is available. Please see our Get Help Now page for more resources.


Each stage of a child’s life comes with unique parenting challenges. With these parenting tips for raising healthy, happy teenagers, you’ll be better equipped to navigate your child’s adolescent years. Additionally, a licensed family therapist can help you and your teen thrive during this pivotal life stage.
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