Parenting, Teens 13-18

When your child becomes a teenager, your parenting role shifts. Your child is discovering their identity and who they want to be. Independence and privacy become important as well as a growing interest in friends. The days that you were the sole rule maker may become a thing of the past as you find yourself becoming more of a mentor and guide.

The groundwork of your past parenting experience laid the foundation that supports your child as they navigate adolescence. Teenagers ought to know what we expect of them, but they still need your guidance and support. Some limits will not be negotiable if safety is a concern.

Strengthening a positive relationship

In the adolescent years, children begin to spend more time apart from their families, by themselves, with friends and other people. However, they still need the security and safety of their parents so they can meet the challenges of being a teen. Children need to experience kindness, respect, and empathy when they face challenges if they are to thrive in adolescence. Showing your love and support gives them the confidence to try new things and explore new ideas, interests, and relationships.

A positive relationship is more than spending time around each other; it is about building closeness by being available and responsive to your child. This connection will allow you to notice any problems they may be having. Plus, they are more likely to come to you if they have a problem.

How do I connect with my pre-teen/teen?

Establishing a connection with your teenage child sets the foundation for supporting their mental well-being and social and emotional learning. When we love someone, we show them that we are interested in them and their thoughts and feelings even if we don’t particularly like what they are doing.

Use Casual Connecting Time (click to expand) »

If your child starts to talk, this shows that they may be open to having a conversation with you. Some things you may want to remember:

  • Focus on the moment- stop whatever you are doing; nothing is more important right now. Give your child your full attention.
  • Listen to what they say – look at them as they talk. Try not to interrupt, judge or correct. It shows them that what they have to say is important to you. If they want your opinion or advice, they will ask.
  • Show interest – help them explore their opinions, feelings, plans, or hopes.
  • Give positive feedback and affirmation. For example, “You got this. I know you are capable of finishing up your assignments on time” “Hey, I’m proud that you made that choice and called me. I know it was probably hard given that a lot of your friends were going to that party.”
  • Be present- stay in the same room or nearby as they do their thing at home. Teenagers benefit by knowing that you are available to them.
  • Keep in touch – send a daily text message if you live apart or are traveling.

Teens tend to talk more when doing something together, like going for a walk or cooking. Sometimes your child is not in the mood to speak, so do not force it. Just wait for the next opportunity. Talking is not only about sharing difficulties or challenging feelings. Laughter helps to find common ground with your child. Having fun together and laughing hard is a wonderful way to feel good and strengthen your relationship.

Use Planned Connecting Time (click to expand) »

Planning time together needs to happen because we are busy and need to build in these together moments. Teens do not always appreciate spending time with their parents, but it is worth it to insist that they sometimes do. Here are some tips for planned connection:

  • Schedule- find a time that works for you both. Maybe start with a brief time together, and you can make the next time longer if it goes well.
  • Let them choose the activity – this will motivate them to spend time with you. And it will boost their confidence if you do an activity where your child is the “expert.”
  • Be enthusiastic- enjoy your child’s company and actively take part in their chosen activity. Sharing fun and talking builds the connection, not the activity itself.
  • Be accepting – as parents, we teach children from birth, but this is a time to build and improve your relationship, not teach. A planned activity is not the time to correct your child or give unasked-for advice; let it go.
  • Be positive- your child may not want to plan an activity but keep trying. Keep activities short at first, and they may start to enjoy some one-on-one time with you.

The connection is not happening; what do I do now?

  • Grab opportunities to spend time together without pressure such as family meals, car rides, and sporting events.
  • Going to a café or a movie, or on a hike
  • Instead of booking in advance, keep things spontaneous.
  • Ask them about activities they like, and when an opportunity arises, do one of those activities, and work through the list.
  • Technology can be a good thing. Send a funny meme or text message. Sure, they might roll their eyes at you, but secretly they enjoy it.
  • Keep trying. It might take some time to work, but soon it will become easy and fun for you both. Even if your teen is not joining in on the things you try, your efforts are still building a positive environment.

Your job is to find a way to navigate teenagers’ quest for freedom and less adult control while still finding ways to provide the support and guidance they still often need. Challenging behaviours and mood changes are a normal part of adolescence. Understanding that a teen is doing what they need to do to grow into adulthood, makes us more likely to respond with the information and support they need.

Services related to this information:

  • Doorways: rapid ‘one session at a time’ counselling services.
  • Bridge the gapp
    Newfoundland and Labrador’s ‘go-to’ website for mental health information. Bridge the gapp offers self-help resources, links to local services, and invites people to share their personal stories. Bridge the gapp is free of cost and available to every resident in the province. The site is divided into adult and youth sections, however many services are appropriate for both.
  • Strongest Families Children and Youth Programs
    Free skill-based educational programs for children, youth, adults, and families seeking help to improve mental health and well-being.
  • Mental health and addictions services
  • Contact your Public Health Nurse
  • Contact your physician/nurse practitioner
  • 811 HealthLine (Newfoundland & Labrador) – Call 811 or 1-888-709-2929 / TTY 1-888-709-3555
    • 811 is free and confidential. 811 is available 24/7 and can provide support with mental health and addictions issues and more.
    • Services formerly offered by the Provincial Mental Health Crisis Line are now offered by 811. Call 811 to speak with a registered nurse who is also a trained crisis intervener.
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Last updated: 2024-01-04