Staying Calm During the Storm of Adolescence
Navigating the Adolescent Journey
According to the World Health Organization, adolescents are young people between the ages of 10-19. Adolescence is one of the fastest phases of development for a young person.
Adolescents are developing physically, intellectually, emotionally, and socially, all at the same time. All of these changes help an adolescent form their own identity, gain independence, and prepare for adulthood. This move toward independence can often cause strain on parent-child relationships and family dynamics.
Here are some things to keep in mind as you and your child navigate this phase of development:
Parents Still Matter
As adolescents begin to explore their identities and seek independence, they are also exposed to greater risk, both positive and negative. Adolescents rely on their parents to set boundaries and provide emotional support. Parents can help their children learn independent decision-making skills, and help set limits that can minimize their exposure to risk.
Communication is Key
Adolescents are less likely to engage in risky behaviors when they openly communicate with their parents and truly feel heard. Because adolescents tend to turn to their peers rather than their parents during this developmental stage, it’s important for parents to find ways to keep open communication flowing, even when it’s difficult.
Some ideas to promote open communication include:
- Provide warmth and support. Adolescents are more likely to discuss difficult feelings and circumstances with their parents if they feel they will be accepted and free of judgement.
- Listen to the adolescent in your life. It’s important for adolescents to feel they are truly heard. Try listening without interrupting or providing a lecture on what they should do. Use this opportunity to ask open-ended questions that can help your adolescent walk through a problem-solving process themselves. You may also want to share similar stories from your own adolescence.
- Don’t overreact! Even if an adolescent shares information you disagree with, it’s important to remain calm and judgement free! Remember, adolescents may be less likely to seek you out for advice or guidance if they are afraid of how you might react!
Boundaries Promote Healthy Decision-Making
Adolescents rely on parents to help them make positive, healthy, and safe choices during this period of experimentation and development.
There are a few key ways parents can set limits to promote a healthy parent-child relationship:
- Set clear, consistent rules and outline specific consequences.
- Keep track of what your adolescent is doing and who they are with. Monitoring adolescent behavior can help reduce the risk to engage in risky behaviors such as drinking, sex, and smoking.
- Be open to flexibility in rules as your adolescent gets older. Engage adolescents in decision-making processes and listen to the needs they express. This will promote independence, critical thinking, and problem solving skills!
Resist the urge to control – think of yourself as a guide! You are there to guide your adolescent as they develop their own identity. You may not agree with all of their choices, but you can help them make informed, safe decisions, and support them as they navigate this new period of development.
For More Information
- Health and Human Services - Office of Adolescent Health
- American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
- Parent's Guide to Surviving the Teen Years
- American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. (2015). Parenting: Preparing for adolescence. (No. 56).
- American Academy of Pediatrics. (2018). Stages of adolescence.
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2018a). Communicating.
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2018b). Healthy parent-child relationships.
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2018c). Setting limits.
- World Health Organization. (2018). Adolescent development.