Parenting Through the Teenage Years

It starts subtly: you go to kiss your child goodbye in public and they cringe. Soon they’re spending more time alone in their room and rolling their eyes at things you do. It’s time to face the inevitable: your child is turning into a teenager.

The teenage years are an important life stage when a child becomes more independent. It’s part of the preparation for going out into the world on their own. Unfortunately, many times this process includes some defiance, restlessness, mood swings and even some normal rebellion.

Here are some tips to guide you and your teenager through this difficult period:

  • Clarify the rules. In general, it’s best to set ground rules that enable a teenager to exercise a certain amount of independence as long as they are respectful of others and property. For example, you might insist that your teenager clean up her messes in the family room, but ignore the perpetual mess in her bedroom.
  • Set reasonable consequences. It’s important to set boundaries and dole out consequences if your teenager gets out of line, but avoid excessive control or using physical punishment. These behaviors can have serious negative consequences on your adult relationship. Instead, set limits on privileges, such as phone or computer use, as a method of grounding your teenager.
  • Step aside. Let your teenager learn some life lessons from trial and error on their own. Your teen will soon find that teachers, coaches and employers will not tolerate poor choices. Resist the urge to step in and make it better. Dealing with consequences teaches your teenager to be responsible for their own actions.
  • Avoid unnecessary criticism. When your teenager voices negative views or experiments with questionable hair or clothing, it’s difficult to stay silent. Some teenagers become very passionate about holding the opposite political or religious views of their parents. When these conflicts occur, state your own view calmly and let it go. The more you dwell on harmless behaviors, the more likely they will persist or even lead to harmful rebellious behavior, such as experimentation with drugs or stealing.
  • Model friendship. When the teenage years finally end, hopefully your child will be an adult you enjoy spending time with as a friend. Start modeling a healthy adult friendship now. Listen without judgment, work together with mutual respect and spend relaxed time together doing things you both enjoy.

In general, give your teenager space, but let them know you are available to listen if they need to talk. Watch for signs of more serious trouble that may indicate your teenager needs outside help, such as:

  • Signs of depression or suicidal thinking
  • Signs of alcohol or drug use
  • Rapidly declining school performance
  • Destructive or violent behavior

Don’t hesitate to call your teen’s doctor if you have these or other concerns about your teenager. If you’re looking for a pediatrician or family doctor, visit Riley at IU Health to locate expert, compassionate care near you.

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