Parenting a teen
Most parents would probably agree that raising a child is a very fulfilling job, and one of the toughest, too! Parenting a teen can be especially challenging. The many changes (physical, intellectual, emotional, and social) that happen during the transition from child to adult can make this period difficult. You will need to adapt and change, too. You might notice that your role as a parent suddenly goes from being a manager (making the decisions) to becoming a consultant (providing input and suggestions). It may feel as if your teen has the ability to fire you at any time.
Like most parents, you might be wondering what to do and how to get through this transition. Some of your best consulting skills include open communication, lots of love and caring, and staying connected to your teen's changing world.
Here are ideas to help you navigate your changing relationship with your teen:
Let your teen know that you love her no matter what. Teens need a trusting relationship with a parent or other adult to feel safe and secure. Talk with your teen. Listen to her ideas and opinions.
Try not to take it personally if your teen is breaking away and wanting more privacy. These are normal parts of growing up. Teens have unique developmental stages and need different things from you at different points in time. Remember that most adults live in patterns (daily routines), while teenagers live in moments (whatever is happening right now). Allow your teen to make more decisions as she demonstrates the ability to use good judgment.
You are a role model for your teen. Parents have the ability to influence a teen's attitudes much more than peers do. Even though your child might not seem to be listening and watching what you do, she probably is. Express your:
Be honest and open when talking about values, beliefs, and ideas. It may be wise to simply say, "While you may decide to do something different, here is what I think." Briefly explain your views and then drop the subject. Keep in mind that helping your teen become an adult takes time, patience, and commitment.
Recognize that her life may be very different from your own adolescence. When differences arise, listen to your teen and try to understand her point of view. Feeling understood is very powerful. Good listening will result in your teen being more open to hearing your point of view.
If something about your teenager is bothering you, stop and think before you act. Reacting to a situation quickly without thinking about the possible effects of your actions can make the situation worse. Instead, try asking yourself these questions: Does this problem need my attention or intervention? If it does, how involved should I try to get? Talk with your teen to get to the heart of the problem.
More on tips for parents of teens.
Make physical activity a family affair
You play a key role in helping your teen stay healthy and develop healthy habits. One of the best things you can do for your teen's health is to help her become more active. Being physically active:
The good news is if your teen sees you invest in fitness by being physically active and having fun, she's more likely to be active too. The habits learned in adolescence often carry through to adulthood, and activity at any level and age is a good thing. Try to create opportunities to be active together. Even a teen with asthma can participate in fitness activities (see page 2 of Three Steps to Better Sports Performance).
Here are some ideas to make physical activity a family affair:
For help getting motivated and finding exercises, check out our Health Coach.
Wear a helmet, save a life
Preventable accidents are the leading cause of death among children and teens in the U.S. Most accidents can be avoided with some basic safety measures. As a parent, you can help keep your teen safe by:
More on essential sports equipment.
Talking with your teen about getting high
Most parents are concerned about their children using alcohol, cigarettes, marijuana, and other drugs. Your concerns are real. Research shows that:
Read more facts on teen substance abuse.
Teen drinking, smoking, and drug use are harmful because they affect general health, physical growth, emotional development, and school performance. Children are primed to learn during adolescence with brain development is at its peak. This means that behaviors started in youth often carry over to adulthood.
You play a key role in helping your teen stay healthy and avoid drugs and alcohol. Your attitude toward alcohol, cigarettes, and drugs is one of the greatest influences on whether your child will use them. Remember that lecturing can create a wall between you and your teen. Instead, emphasize your love and concern. Being a good role model is an excellent way to show your teen how to act responsibly. More on alcohol and drug prevention strategies and how to communicate with your teen about the dangers of getting high.
Consider having your teen read Drinking and Getting High: You Decide.
You may be wondering how to answer questions about your past, and whether you have used drugs. Teens are often curious about whether you can relate to their world and understand where they are coming from. Try to be honest and open if your child asks about your drug use. Use your judgment about how much of your history to share. You may want to use this as an opportunity to share the lessons you've learned.
Puberty and your teen
Raging hormones, we've all been there, and yet it's easy to forget just how exciting and scary it can be to leave childhood behind. Puberty is the time when a person's body changes from a child to an adult. It usually starts earlier in girls (between the ages of 8 and 13 years) than for boys (between the ages of 10 and 14 years.) By age 15, most teens have entered puberty, and their bodies, thoughts, and emotions have changed radically.
During puberty, girls and boys change in many ways. Some of these changes include hair growth, developing breasts (girls), and changing body shape (wider shoulders for boys, wider hips for girls). More on physical changes.
You may notice emotional changes in your teen. She may be happier than ever before, sadder than ever before, or caring about others in new ways. Your teen may also communicate new thoughts or ideas. Decision making often improves, too. Your teen may act differently around other people, more like a young adult, less like a little kid. Teens might express the need for more friends and an interest in new hobbies, styles, etc. These changes are all part of developing an identity.
It's common for children to feel insecure and scared by the changes their bodies and minds are going through. As a parent, it's important for you to talk openly with your child. Be sure to remind her that changes are a normal part of growing up. Learn what to expect during puberty, so you can answer any questions. More on growth and development between 11 to 14 years and 15 and 18 years, and how to talk about puberty with your teen.
What is an adolescent medicine specialist?
Kaiser Permanente's adolescent medicine specialists are physicians and nurse practitioners with a passion for teen health care. Most are board certified in Pediatrics, Internal Medicine, or Family Medicine and have a certificate of Adolescent Medicine (education and training in adolescent health and development). Our adolescent medicine specialists are leaders in teen health care.
What do adolescent medicine specialists do?
Adolescent medicine specialists are part of the primary care team. They support the primary care provider in teen health care and focus on evaluating and treating many of the common medical and behavioral problems that can show up during puberty. Some of these problems include:
How does an adolescent medicine specialist work with other doctors?
If your teen has an issue that needs special attention, the pediatrician or primary care doctor may work with an adolescent medicine specialist to develop a treatment plan based on your teen's needs. The adolescent medicine specialist may also work closely with nurses, physical and occupational therapists, psychiatrists, psychologists, pharmacists, and social workers.
Our adolescent medicine services have changed over time. Kaiser Permanente has come a long way since 1986. Back then, there was only one teen clinic in the Northern California region. Today, we have more than 12 teen clinics. Many of these clinics offer a separate waiting area to ensure privacy for your teen. Please contact your medical center for more information about teen clinics in your area. Even if your local medical center does not have a separate teen clinic, all of our facilities have doctors and practitioners who specialize in teen patients and issues.
Atención confidencial para su hijo adolescente (Spanish)
El médico puede ayudar al adolescente a responsabilizarse del cuidado de su propia salud. Una parte importante de este proceso es que el médico pueda mantener una conversación privada con el adolescente en cada visita médica. Esta privacidad le da la oportunidad al adolescente de hacer preguntas confidencialmente o de hablar sobre temas delicados. Muchos adolescentes (y adultos también) tienen dificultades para hablar sobre:
El médico puede responder las preguntas del adolescente, proporcionarle información precisa, aclarar cualquier mito y promover su salud y seguridad. Más información sobre atención confidencial para su adolescente.
Continúe con más información en español en Artículos en español.