How Can I Be a Better Parent to My Teenager?

Raising a teen can be challenging, and it's important to set the right boundaries, while giving them space to grow. Parenting tips for adolescents include keeping open communication, teaching them what's most important, giving them privacy, watching for warning signs, and more.
Raising a teen can be challenging, and it's important to set the right boundaries, while giving them space to grow. Parenting tips for adolescents include keeping open communication, teaching them what's most important, giving them privacy, watching for warning signs, and more.

Raising a teenager can have its challenges. Teens are experiencing a period of intense growth, physically, emotionally, and intellectually. Despite the conflict that comes with teens learning who they are and becoming more independent, it is possible to have a good relationship with your teenager. 

Even though they can be rebellious at times, teenagers are also thoughtful and idealistic and have a keen interest in fairness. Understanding how they learn and react can help parents interact with them in a more constructive manner. 

Tips for parenting teenagers include:

  1. Learn about teenagers 
    • Read books about teenagers
    • Remember what it was like when you were a teenager 
    • Expect mood changes, and be prepared for conflict as the child matures
    • When you know what is coming, you will be better prepared to deal with it
  2. Talk to kids early and often
    • Answer children’s questions about their bodies (menstruation, wet dreams, and other things that will happen to their maturing bodies)
    • Keep it simple — don't overload them with information
      • If you don't know the answers, find a trusted friend or a pediatrician who can help
    • A yearly physical exam is a good opportunity to have the child’s doctor tell them (and you) what to expect in the next few years, and can be a good starting point for future discussions with your child
    • The earlier you start talking about these things, the better able you will be to prevent misconceptions and embarrassment that can accompany physical and emotional changes
    • The earlier the communication starts, the better a parent’s chances of keeping the lines open through the teen years
  3. Put yourself in your child's place
    • Let your child know it’s normal to be concerned or self-conscious, and to feel grown-up one minute and like a little kid the next
  4. Don’t push teenagers to be independent before they are ready
    • While adolescence is a time when children learn to establish independence, every child has their own timetable
    • It is not healthy for a child to feel pushed into independence and doing so can make them overly dependent on their peer group for validation
  5. Pick your battles
    • Teenagers love to shock their parents
    • Some things, like coloring their hair, wearing outlandish clothing, or painting their fingernails black, are temporary and harmless and a way for them to express themselves 
    • You might ask your child why they want to look that way and help them understand how others may perceive them, if it might be negative
    • Still, it’s better to allow temporary changes and save your battles for important issues such as smoking, drinking, and drugs
  6. Set clear expectations
    • Though teens often seem displeased with expectations they understand the need and that it’s because their parents care about them
    • When parents set appropriate expectations such as good grades, acceptable behavior, and sticking to house rules are important and they usually try to meet them
    • Teens may feel parents don’t care if they do not have reasonable expectations
  7. Maintain high standards
    • Support your teenagers to be their best selves
    • Let them determine their own goals and support them, and let them know they can achieve anything they set their mind to
  8. Inform your teen and yourself
    • Teens often experiment and engage in risky behaviors
    • Don't avoid difficult topics such as sex, drugs, alcohol, or tobacco use
    • Discussing these topics openly with teens before they're exposed to them makes it more likely they will act responsibly when the time comes
    • Know your child's friends and their friends’ parents
      • Regular communication can help foster a safe environment for teens in a peer group and parents can help each other keep track of the teenager’s activities without making them feel as if they're being watched
  9. Know the warning signs
    • Rapid, drastic or long-lasting changes in personality or behavior may be signs of problems that require professional help
    • Warning signs include:
      • Sudden change in friends
      • Skipping school often
      • Extreme weight gain or loss
      • Sleep problems
      • Falling grades
      • Talking or even joking about suicide
      • Signs of tobacco, alcohol, or drug use
      • Run-ins with the law
      • Any inappropriate behavior that lasts more than 6 weeks can be a sign of underlying trouble
      • Talk to your child’s doctor or a local counselor, psychologist, or psychiatrist to help you find proper counseling
  10. Respect your teen’s privacy
    • You need to allow some privacy to help your teen grow up
    • Your teen’s bedroom, emails, phone calls, and texts should be private and you can’t expect them to share everything with you
    • For safety reasons you should know where they are going, what they are doing, who they will be with, and when they will be back
    • If you notice warning signs of potential problems, it may be necessary invade a child's privacy until the problem is dealt with
    • It starts with trust and if the teen breaks your trust, he or she will get fewer freedoms until it's rebuilt
  11. Monitor what your teen sees and reads
    • Be aware of what your child watches and reads and know what they might be learning and who they might be communicating with, especially online
      • Set limits if needed on the amount of time spent in front of the computer or the television
      • Teens should not have unlimited access to TV or the Internet in private; these should be public activities to keep kids safe
      • They will be less tempted to do things you might disapprove of if the computer is in a common space
      • Access to technology such as computers and cell phone should be limited after certain hours to encourage sleep
  12. Make appropriate rules
    • Most teens need 8 to 9 hours of sleep, so bedtime for a teenager should be age appropriate
    • Reward your teen when they are trustworthy — if they follow the expectations and rules, consider allowing more freedoms such as a later curfew 
    • Be flexible on amount time you expect your teen so spend with the family and don’t take it personally when they don’t want to be with you
    • Remember when you were a teenager and you probably didn’t always want to spend time with your family either
  13. Establish time together
    • Check in each day, even for just a few minutes of conversation to keep the lines of communication open
    • Have a weekly routine to so something special together
    • Make eating meals together a high priority, when possible
      • Meal time is an opportunity to check in and talk 
    • Have regular family meetings
      • This provides a space for everyone to talk about topics of concern to them within the family