If you are currently navigating life with preteens (also lovingly known as tweens), you might be starting to look to the future and figure out your parenting strategy for the teenage years. Maybe you’re still enjoying the toddler or elementary school phase where the challenges are still pretty simple. Either way, we’ve pulled together some information that can help you with parenting teens.
We will cover some of the common challenges you may face when raising teenagers, plus some tips to help you prepare and what resources you can use when faced with issues. Is it possible to parent teens without any conflict or drama? It’s possible, but it’s better to prepare yourself for some rough patches.
Adventures for the Whole Family
It can be tough to find activities suitable for everyone in a household, especially with teens in the mix. Luckily, Adventures From Scratch: Family Edition offers over 50 suggestions! Bond with your kids, as you scratch off the surface of each page and uncover entertaining options. Each will allow you to explore and learn together while having tons of fun!
Challenges With Parenting Teens
You might be wondering why parenting teenagers comes with drama. There are many challenges, but these are just a few of the main ones that parents face. Being prepared for these situations can help parents deal with them in a better and more effective way.
Choice of Friends
When you have little kids, you have complete control over their social calendar and who they are hanging out with. As your child grows up, they form their own relationships at school and start to pick their friends. When you no longer have control over playdates and who your kids connect with socially, it can lead to some clashes in opinion.
There is a possibility your teen can start hanging out with the wrong crowd and it’s important that you know who they spend their time with. You might not have much control over it, but awareness is important.
More Freedom with Driving
One of the biggest life events in teenage years is getting a driver’s license. It really changes the amount of freedom your kids have when they have access to a vehicle and no longer rely on you to drive them around. If you don’t set your family up for success, this can be a huge area of stress.
There can be issues with safety if they aren’t following the laws and practicing safe driving guidelines. It’s also harder to know exactly where your kids are at all times because they can cover a lot more ground in a car. Kids between the ages of 16 and 19 are at the highest risk to be involved in a car accident.
Distracted driving is one of the biggest problems and cell phones are so commonplace at this point. There are so many statistics available to make the point about safety with your children. They should know that talking on a cell phone can double the likelihood of an accident and slow reaction time down significantly.
Bullying and Online Behavior Issues
A CDC poll in 2019 indicated that around 16% of high school students were bullied online in the 12 months before the poll. If you aren’t familiar with the ways teenagers are communicating with each other these days, you should dive into some of the apps and engage in some discovery.
It’s important that you have boundaries set about how your child uses the internet and what information they share. Learning censorship and appropriate communication styles is all part of growing up, but with technology changing so quickly, it can be a huge challenge for adults.
In this same realm, screen time can be a challenge for parents. Between phones, computers, and televisions, so much of life happens through a screen. It’s important for our eyes and overall health to take breaks from screens and enjoy the world that you can see in front of you.
Hormones and Dating
The teenage brain is going through all kinds of changes, but so is the body. Hormonal changes can offer lots of challenges for parents of teens. Kids this age start learning about sex and dealing with the physical changes that their bodies go through. If parents aren’t prepared for the questions and conversations that are so important, it can lead to many issues.
It’s been a while since most parents have gone through these changes, so many people don’t take the time to familiarize themselves with all the challenges and struggles that teenagers face. Make sure that you have a plan for these moments so you aren’t caught off guard when it comes up.
Pushing Boundaries and Testing Limits
Adolescents commonly use their teenage years to test their parents. Whether it means they are coming in after curfew or not checking in when they are supposed to, teenagers often want to test the consequences and what they can get away with.
This brings up new and unique obstacles. Teenagers may deal with substance abuse, alcohol abuse, or just not following the rules and doing what you ask of them. It can get extremely frustrating to have these limits pushed. These challenges are common and most kids will test the boundaries at some point. Parents need to be prepared to face these moments and stand aligned in their principles.
Learning New Responsibilities
Child development has many phases as kids grow up. Having some type of household chore is common, but as they become teenagers, it’s important for parents to start getting their children ready for adulthood. This can be really tough for parents to decide what is appropriate for kids to learn and when.
Teenagers will eventually be leaving the house and going out on their own, so they will need some skills like laundry, cooking, and managing bank accounts and money. Figuring out how to teach kids life skills and when to do it is something that every parent is going to be faced with. Schools offer a few classes, like Home Ec, that help a bit, but there is plenty that needs to be addressed at home or outside of school.
Methods and Tips for Parenting Teenagers Without Conflict and Drama
Parenting tips for teenagers are similar to the tips you probably got for younger children as well, but the stakes get higher as the kids get older because they have more of their own opinions and get more stubborn with age. We’ve pulled together a few things to consider for your family and how you are helping your teenagers get ready for their adult lives.
Be Ready for Big Changes
Teen years come with lots of changes. First, kids reach high school. In most cases, they are switching to a larger school with new people and new teachers. Then, many kids start learning to drive. There’s more freedom and kids have the ability to move around more in their life without the supervision of their parents. Some kids will start dating, get their first jobs, and think about adulthood. Do they want to go to college? Will they move out of the house?
Parents need to have a plan for these big changes. In two-parent households, adults should get on the same page and make sure that the communication is aligned. You don’t want to be giving different messages to the same child because it can get confusing and they could lose trust in one or both of you.
Decide together how you’d like to proceed with driver’s education, conversations about college, how many hours your teen can work each week, and what the rules are in the house for curfews and prioritizing school work. By maintaining a solid front, you’ll be showing your teenager that it doesn’t matter which parent they are getting the message from—it’s the same with the other.
Offer the Same Level of Respect as any Close Friend
Young adults are exactly that—adults that are younger. So they should be treated as such. Transitioning into the real world means understanding how to maintain healthy relationships with their friends, coworkers, authority figures, and the family. Set good examples for them.
Treat them with the same respect you want to be treated. Many parents joke about embarrassing their teenagers, but you can actively work to avoid those moments. Just consider their feelings before you interact with them. The more you show them respect and treat them like adults, the more likely they are to act that way. They will learn from the interactions they see you have and many will go on to carry on similar relationships.
If you have any situations that are tough, make sure you talk to them about them and explain why things happened the way they did. You can point out mistakes you’ve made and tell them how you’ve learned from them. However, you would speak to your closest friends is how you should speak to your children. It helps form a friendship that will last well into their adult years.
Provide Consistent Quality Time
Positive parenting resources say that family time is crucial for kids at any age. There are many ways you can do this depending on your family’s schedule. Many families pick a meal that they always eat together. It can be breakfast on weekdays or maybe have a weekly or biweekly family dinner.
You can also find activities that you both enjoy or start fun traditions. Maybe the outdoors is a shared interest and you schedule a monthly hike where you go together and hit the trails. Maybe you both love baseball and travel to a new stadium each year. Find something that is consistent and gives you both something to look forward to. Creating those memories and having fun together will improve your overall relationship, plus it gives you something to carry forward into later years.
Whatever you decide to do as a family and as a parent/child relationship, make sure that the time is intentional and remove any distractions. You don’t want to go to dinner and have everyone sitting on their phones all night without speaking to one another. Make rules to keep phones away and everyone engaged. Board games and other interactive activities can help with that as well.
Set Goals and Standards for Your Teenager
Teen behavior can be all over the board, so it’s good to have some agreed-upon goals to work towards. School is a popular category to set some goals. You could pick a subject that is more challenging and set some goals on grades for them to work towards. Positive reinforcement works wonders, so there should be something of value that they are working towards.
You can also choose simple habits that you want them to start building like flossing their teeth regularly or keeping their spaces clean. Sit down with them and make it a collaborative effort to set these goals and standards. The more involved they are, the more engaged they will be and inspired to stick with it.
By creating good strong habits and routines while they are under your roof, you are helping to set them up for success in the next phase of their life. Adults pay good money for life coaches that help them change certain things and set goals and teenagers can get that for free from their parents.
Keep the Lines of Communication Constantly Flowing
Most family counselors and therapists will tell you that communication is the number one way to improve family relationships. Teenagers are going through so many changes and there will definitely be days that they do not want to talk to you, as the parent. It’s important to continue to follow up. You can give them a little space when they are upset, but continue to show them that you are there and want to talk.
Ask them how their day is going. Text them while they are at school if there are any changes to the normal schedule or even just to tell them that you’re thinking of them. All communication is good and important, so this tip isn’t just for big talks and deep conversations. Parents should know what kids are learning in school, who they are eating lunch with, and what TV shows they love right now.
If you have practiced your communication skills, you’ll be better equipped when there are hard conversations (which everyone does.) The more you talk to each other, the more you understand each other’s communication style and can get through to each other easier. It’s also important to use all the methods of communication. The younger generations do most of their communication with friends through their phones.
Try and adjust your methods to meet them in the middle. Don’t expect them to always be ready to chat on the phone. Send texts when there’s a quick message to deliver. The more that you expand your knowledge of these mediums, the better off you’ll be as a parent to have a strong line of communication open at all times.
Have a Plan for After School Activities
So many parents are worried about late-night activities and what time the curfew should be, but after-school hours are often overlooked. Did you know that an LA Times Study found that the prime time for juvenile violent crimes is from 2:00 to 6:00 PM on weekdays? The hours after school are typically unsupervised and kids are able to go wherever they please until mom and/or dad come home from work around dinner time.
After-school programs are plentiful for younger kids, but once they become teenagers, there are fewer options. If you don’t have a spot for your teens to go after school, it’s important to come up with a plan.
Extracurricular activities that take place after school, like sports or theater, are perfect to keep kids occupied during those hours. If your child doesn’t participate in those activities, you can have a rule that they have to be home by a specific time after the final bell rings to start working on homework. You can have them check-in as soon as they are in the house. A part-time, after-school job is another great option because it gives them a start time that they are responsible for meeting.
Whichever route you take, it’s important that you have some kind of plan and help them avoid the trouble that comes with those hours each day. There is plenty of time for fun with friends on weekends, so weekdays should be about getting chores and homework done and then spending a little time with family and hobbies.
Be Aware of Online Behavior and Habits
We mentioned online bullying above, which is definitely one of the growing issues for teenagers (and sadly younger children too). Each family is going to have a unique set of rules when it comes to social media and apps. If your teenager wants to create profiles on Instagram or TikTok, it’s important that you are aware of what that profile looks like and have some boundaries set up.
Any type of social media should be set to private so it’s not just available on the internet for anyone to see. Many parents require a shared password so they can log in if they want to make sure rules are followed. Other parents sit down with kids and look through the apps together. However you want to do it, it’s just important that you pay some attention to online behavior.
You’ll also want to know if they are trying to sneak around a little. Snapchat has lots of features to help keep things private and many teenagers create backup Instagram accounts that they don’t share with their parents. Make sure to read up on the “trends” to be aware of. You probably won’t be able to keep up with everything, but the more prepared and armed you are, the better.
It’s also important to have some rules to help limit screen time. We mentioned spending some quality time with your teenager, but there should be other moments when they take a break from the screens. It’s easy to just pick it up and start scrolling, but it can disrupt sleep and distract them from homework and other responsibilities. Schedule some time when phones and computers are put away and everyone picks up a book or heads outside for some fresh air.
Celebrate Physical Activity and Healthy Choices
Teenagers are faced with all kinds of messaging that tells them what they should look like and what they should wear. It’s important as a parent to help them with their self-esteem and maintaining good habits around physical activity. Not all kids enjoy sports, but there should be some physical activity or exercise in their routine to keep their bodies strong and healthy.
This is a space where kids take a lot of cues from the adults in their life. If your kids see you exhibit healthy behaviors, they are more likely to follow along. Fill your home with food that is healthy and nourishing. It’s totally OK to have snacks, but kids will often grab the easiest items when they are hungry and you control what is in your fridge and pantry.
Positive body talk is also important. If your teenager hears you constantly talking about your body in a negative way, they are more likely to pick up those habits. There is so much more representation today for people of all shapes and sizes, but it’s important to build up that self-love at home by practicing affirmations and avoiding negativity.
Sexual behavior is another topic that parents need to be ready for. Hormones kick into overdrive in the teenage body, so it’s natural that they have questions. You can ask the school when they will be covering sex education and build from there, or you can choose to address it at an earlier age. It’s just important that they trust you enough to come to you with questions or concerns. The internet has all kinds of answers that aren’t necessarily true or safe, so being able to have an open conversation within your household is ideal.
Encourage Good Self-Care and Mental Health Habits
Teenage girls and boys are faced with completely different challenges today than you had as a child and it’s getting harder and harder to disconnect and take a break. As their parent, you can help them set some boundaries and prioritize their mental health. Scrolling through social media can definitely have an impact because it’s a constant stream of filtered images and highlight reels.
Young adulthood should be a time to have fun with friends and prepare for life as an adult. Having strong habits to improve mental health and focus on self-care will set kids up for a much easier transition into the real world. With so many stressors impacting everyone, you need a strong foundation for how you protect yourself. Having multiple ways to unplug and unwind as a teenager will help as they become adults and are forced to face even more challenges.
Learn New Things Together
Going to high school opens up the doors to new subjects and a bigger variety of classes to choose from. Your teenager will get to discover new art classes, more extracurriculars, and explore language classes. As a person ages, it becomes harder to start something new and learn a lot about it, so it’s important to encourage your teenagers to explore and try new things throughout high school.
This is also a good time to start something together. Learning something side by side is a great connector. Take a cooking class together. Try a new form of exercise or athletic activity. Learn a new language and practice with each other. This bonding experience will feel so special compared to just sitting next to each other and chatting about life, you will be able to celebrate each other’s accomplishments and hit some of those checkpoints together.
There might also be moments when you need to help with homework and offer additional assistance outside of school. This can be a real challenge if you haven’t thought about Algebra since you told the teacher that you’d never use this outside of the classroom. Show your children how to work through problems and remain patient. Work alongside them to talk through the obstacles and get to the other side. And utilize your network of adults if you need to tag someone in. You probably have friends that are experts in math, language studies, or science for those really tough assignments.
Teach Independence at Their Pace
Helping a young adult to become self-sufficient is a balancing act. On one end, you don’t want to kick them out of the house at 14 and tell them they are on their own to cook, clean, and get their work done. On the other hand, you don’t want your child living with you at the age of 30 because they have no idea how to do laundry or make breakfast.
Household chores and maintenance are things kids won’t learn at school. They need to know how to keep a place clean. Assigning household chores can accomplish that as they grow up. Each year, you can make them a little harder. Start with easy stuff for the young kids like taking out the trash and putting dishes away. By the end of high school, they should be able to do laundry, clean bathrooms, and take care of any yard work.
Finances are another important, and sadly often overlooked, topic to cover with teenagers. You might not need to balance a checkbook anymore, but it is crucial to understand credit cards and the impact they can have on you long term. Your child should have accounts set up and know how to access them online and in person. Understanding things like insurance, interest rates, and debt can set them up for an easier transition into adulthood and full independence.
These topics can be a bit overwhelming, but if you work them into conversations little by little and use real-life examples as they pop up and apply to your child, you can give them an advantage. Many kids shut down when overwhelmed, especially if they think the information doesn’t apply to them. Take your time and work through it at a pace that works for you and your teenager.
Build Trust with Each Other
Helicopter parenting is a term that is used a lot in recent years. Technology has made it easier to keep an eye on your kids even when you aren’t in the same location. But being a helicopter parent to a teenager can backfire. The same technology allows them to figure out ways around constant surveillance and they may have even more secrets.
The best plan for parenting teens without conflict and drama is to focus on building trust. You need to learn to trust your kids and they should trust you in return. It’s important that they are comfortable coming to you with problems and questions. Keep your conversations private and show up for them the way they need.
Make sure they understand the importance of trust in this relationship. If they break the trust, there will be consequences. And if they do what they say and stick to the plan, there might be more freedoms extended over time.
You would never share your deepest secrets with someone on the day you meet them, so treat your teenager the same way. Work to build the trust in your relationship over time and it will really make your life easier.
Other Resources to Help
Podcasts and Books
Parenting books and podcasts are available on pretty much any topic these days. Find one or two professionals that you like and respect and turn to them for new ideas. Just remember that you know your family better than anyone and parenting is not a one size fits all thing. These are meant to be suggestions and not a strict set of rules.
Build a Community
Form relationships with other parents from the school and extracurricular activities. The more adults you have watching out for your kids, the better. If you are able to volunteer at the school and form good relationships with teachers, you can have a solid line of communication and be alerted if anything is off with your student. These are great people to turn to when you have questions or issues because they are probably dealing with similar situations.
Utilize Doctors and Professionals
Your pediatrician is always an important resource as your child grows. Ask questions during your routine visits when necessary. If you are really struggling with communication or behavior issues, involve a family counselor or talk to your doctor about referring you to someone that has experience in that area.
These tips will help you get started, but each family is going to face its own challenges. Know that you aren’t alone in the challenges of parenting teens, and you will get through this. Remember to schedule some fun activities and vacations with the family to build that connection and strong foundation.
Frequently Asked Questions
Teenagers are going through many changes. They are beginning to discover freedoms and test limits. For these reasons, parenting teens requires patience and strong communication skills.
Parenting teens can present many challenges. Communication, trust, and patience are key. Set clear boundaries and clearly communicate expectations and consequences.
There are plenty of options for fun family nights at home with teens, but change it up to keep things interesting. Adventures From Scratch: Family Edition has 50 creative activity ideas you can try!