Raising independent teenagers

July 21, 2021
Kids health
5 min read

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The early teenage years can be confusing. Young teens navigating the world are working things out and haven't yet figured out their identity. During this time, you and your child are both learning how to balance growing independence with parental guidance, and that sometimes can mean conflict.

One mom calls the ups and downs of this age the "independence rollercoaster." She says, "Emma will give me a hard time about something and then go off and be in her room for hours, making me think I'm a horrible parent, but then later she wants to snuggle with me on the couch!"

Teens on their way to becoming capable adults are learning to make decisions, solve problems, take on more responsibility, and form their own identity. As they are on this journey, you want them safe and happy. The key to striking a balance between your child's needs and your own concerns is nurturing a positive relationship with your child.

Show your child lots of love and support. Your love and support are essential for your child's self-esteem. Young people who feel good about themselves often have more confidence to deal with difficult situations.

Although your teen might not always want physical affection from you, you can show your love and support in other ways. Make time to listen when they want to talk, give your child reasonable space and privacy, take a genuine interest in their interests and friends and regularly say, "I love you."

Respect your child's feelings and opinions. Tune into and validate your child's feelings. The physical, social, and emotional changes of adolescence can be confusing and sometimes overwhelming. Your teen needs your emotional guidance and stability during this time.

Your child's opinions might be different from yours and their peers may influence their opinions. If you have a difference of opinion, it's a good chance for you to talk about how people often have different perspectives and that's OK. Talking about your own opinions and feelings calmly can help keep the lines of communication open and prevent them from feeling judged.

Treat your child in a way that's appropriate for their age. Younger teenagers might think they're ready to make their own decisions, although they often haven't developed the decision-making skills they need to handle significant responsibility without your help. It can be helpful to explain to your young teen why younger and older children are given different amounts and types of responsibilities.

Provide safe opportunities for your child to exercise independence. Activities that are safe but give your child freedom and time away from you can help your child in several ways. They can learn new skills and test new abilities, foster a sense of belonging and build resilience. For example, your teen might be interested in joining a youth or sports group. When your child is old enough, a part-time job is another great way for them to develop independence.

Remember that during those teenage years the independence they want and the amount of independence you feel appropriate will likely shift and change as you feel confident. Don't stress— just keep a supportive, understanding and loving relationship.

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