Tips for Parenting Teens

By UBC Camps

Being a teenager is hard, but being a teenager at home 24/7 is filled with particular joys and trials.

Many families are experiencing greater connection and involvement with their teen’s lives than ever before (and likely ever will). Teenagers are growing into young adults in extraordinary times. For younger teens, this may mean marking the end of their elementary school years without traditional celebrations or coming of age ceremonies, while for older teens their transition into adulthood leaves them without a clear future vision.


How can you help your teen navigate complex feelings, housebound restlessness, and academic lethargy?

 

Embrace Adolescence
Start by being understanding and empathetic. Being a teenager is a defining time. Teens are searching for what their role in the community is. Developmentally, teenagers push boundaries, try new things, increase risk-taking and explore different ideologies, all to find their unique voice. Their strong likes and dislikes are helping to define what makes them ‘them’.

    • So, embrace those strong opinions! No great leader is apathetic.
    • Recognize teens might need to sleep-in (a recommended 8-10 hours of sleep to be exact).
    • Remember, seemingly brash actions or harmful words might be hormones hard at work. While not an excuse for disrespect, this is a major factor in regards to impulsivity.

 

Support Social Connections
Friends are important to a teen’s mental health, and much of a teens’ emotional support system comes from their peers. Teenagers also use peer groups to help them understand social relations.

    • Digital connection can be a great source of maintaining, or building, key connections: texting, FaceTime, or social apps such as TikTok.
      • Excess screen time – social or not – can take away from other important activities if these tools aren’t utilized with care. Digital tool management is the key.
      • Ensure to remind teens of digital safety!

 

Talk About ‘The Hard Stuff’
Your teen is likely harbouring a lot of mixed emotions, compounded by the intensity of a teenage brain. No matter the subject matter on your mind, approach any discussion with these tips in mind:

    • Be casual in your approach!
      • Your tone of approach will set-up the tone of their response.
    • Listen more than you give advice.
      • Nothing shuts down a conversation faster with a teenager than perceived judgement. You can often understand more, and support critical thinking and decision making better, by asking questions rather than providing direction (unless asked).
    • Take interest in their world.
      • Talk often to build rapport (and your relationship) before attempting to dive into tough topics.
        • Small acts of care count: asking how cheat codes work in their video game, or if all their classmates are using personalized Zoom backgrounds, etc.
      • Talk while doing.
        • Teen boys especially will often communicate better if you talk and move at the same time, avoiding face to face sit downs: shoot driveway hoops and ask how their friends are doing, or walk the dog and break down recent news headlines.

 

Role Model Healthy Present & Future Viewpoints
Teens of all ages and genders are prone to the dramatic! And present-day unpredictability makes it really easy to see everything through dark sunglasses, versus keeping a mindfulness and hopeful demeanor.

    • Point out what is going well for your teen through role modeling joy in small, everyday things.
    • Reassure your teen that unpredictability in life IS normal, and that all storms are weathered in time. To do this, be mindful about how you speak about your own worries and fears. Let them know confidential youth support exists:

 

Find Their Angle
Academic work might seem like a waste of time to a teenager, with major global events changing worldwide patterns and societal systems. The trick isn’t to remind your teen why you think schoolwork matters, but to find out why it might matter to them.

    • Even if they want to throw the towel in, remind them that setting aside time for their online academics now, might actually help ensure they have more time to use as they please once physical distancing measures are lifted.
    • Of course, there are also a whole lot of study tips that will help them achieve academic success too – whatever that looks like for them.

 

Adult-Like Responsibilities
Teenagehood is the transition from childhood to adulthood, and every teen wants to be treated more like an adult, and not as a child.

    • ‘Be real’. Teenagers need more complex reassurance than younger children do.
    • Show teenagers you respect their opinions, by asking for your teen’s observations or advice (ex. assistance in setting-up those virtual workplace meetings!).

 

Teenagers are remarkably resilient, persistent, inventive and insightful!  With support from caring adults, teens can thrive during – and after – COVID-19.

For more parenting teen tips, check out Toronto’s Centre for Mental Health (CAMH) parenting guide!