NEWS

The New Stay-At-Home Parents of High Schoolers

High schooler and Dad reading book

FatCamera / Getty Images

Key Takeaways

  • One in five parents stay at home with their child.
  • Over 60% of people who work at home say the arrangement has helped them have a better work-life balance.
  • While there are advantages to being at home with your high schooler, it can also be isolating for some parents.

When you think of stay-at-home parents, you probably think of parents of babies and toddlers. Research shows moms of children up to age 3 are the most likely group to stay home with their kids. These parents spend an average of 18 hours per day on childcare, largely because little ones need so much time and attention. But there's a new group of children increasingly needing more attention—high schoolers. Almost half of all high schoolers have said they’ve felt hopeless or sad during the past year. A trend is helping parents to fulfill that need — by staying at home with their teenagers.

“Children at all ages have needs, and I feel that mental and social needs could be more pronounced with high school students and especially as a result of the pandemic,” notes Angela Pointer, who works in talent acquisition and is mom to 16-year-old Caleb.

While there are no concrete details on the number of parents making work and career changes to be home with their high schoolers, research shows that over 90% of parents say having more flexibility at work would make them better parents.

Whether it’s working remotely or changing job positions, parents are prioritizing time with their high schoolers in a new way, to provide the physical, mental, and emotional support they need.

Why Parents of Teens are Staying Home

Parents deciding to stay at home with their teens is not necessarily new. Many caregivers have realized the importance of devoting extra time to their teens. Mary Dixon Lebeau took an early retirement from her job as an Employment Specialist five years ago. She wanted to spend more time with her then 14-year-old daughter, Libby.

“When she graduated eighth grade, I realized that my chance was dwindling. I only had four more years to really invest in this child,” says Lebeau, author of "Secret Jersey Shore: A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful and Obscure." “My daughter suffers from anxiety, so I believe having a parent 100% present helped her navigate high school. She actually thrived during those years and was ready when she moved six hours away for college last year.”

Anxiety is one of the leading mental health issues teens are facing. The pandemic exacerbated many of those concerns. Almost 40% of high schoolers say they’ve had poor mental health during the pandemic.

Bevan R. says dealing with the fallout of COVID-19 helped her to reevaluate her decisions. She now works from home in her position as an operations manager. She started working remotely because COVID-19 hit. She continued doing it for a much more important reason.

“After becoming fully remote during the pandemic, and my teen's struggle with several issues including depression and anxiety intensified greatly in the fall of 2021, I have opted to remain pretty much full-time working from home,” Bevan notes. She wanted to be available for her 16-year-old daughter, Izzy.

Pointer says her son’s needs also weighed heavily into her career choices. “I didn’t leave the workforce but chose to accept a position working from home. Being able to be more involved with my high school son was a factor in my decision,” she says.

In addition to shifting priorities and mental health needs, parents may choose to stay home to have more quality time with their children. Being home means less commuting, which may factor into the decision. That can lead to a more manageable schedule and a simpler way of life. While at home, parents can also help ensure their child is getting the educational support that they need.

The decision to work remotely may not be solely to stay home with a child. It can also be a byproduct of the changing employment landscape, including job losses. Approximately 60% of people who say their jobs can be done from home are taking advantage of remote work situations. Sixty-four percent of those workers say being at home has made it easier to have a positive work-life balance.

How Parents Are Supporting Their Teens

In more than half of all U.S. dual-income households, people say kids would be better off with a parent staying at home to focus on the family. Bevan says for her, working from home has been worth it.

Bevan R.

[T]he fact that I could be there for her for whatever she needed made me feel...like I was really doing something that could make a difference for her wellbeing.

— Bevan R.

 “[T]he fact that I could be there for her for whatever she needed made me feel good as a parent like I was really doing something that could make a difference for her wellbeing,” Bevan says.

Pointer says her presence allows her to lend spiritual support to her son.

“I am here when he leaves for school…and here [when he] gets home. We have a prayer, we pray…before he leaves for school,” she says.  

Experts say parents may not even realize they are also benefitting their children by teaching real-life lessons.

“If they’re combining remote work with family life, they’re modeling for their kid how to navigate both worlds in real time where the teen can see it,” explains Mayra Mendez, PhD, LMFT, licensed psychotherapist, the program coordinator for intellectual and developmental disabilities and mental health services at Providence Saint John's Child and Family Development Center.

Supporting Parents' Mental Health

While many parents who work from home make the decision primarily with their children in mind, it can create a win-win scenario for caregivers.

Mayra Mendez, PhD

The benefit is that flexibility allows reduction of stress. I think that’s just huge. because control of time and schedules is completely theirs.

— Mayra Mendez, PhD

“The benefit is that flexibility allows reduction of stress. I think that’s just huge. because control of time and schedules is completely theirs,” explains Dr. Mendez.  

Research shows that people who have flexible work schedules feel less stressed than those with standard, fixed, work schedules. Working from home provides that opportunity.

Bevan notes she takes time to support her mental health in her current situation. Support groups, therapy, and even help from her own parents and family gives her the mental and emotional support she needs. She also incorporates self-care.

“I kept up with my own wellness practices too, such as Pilates, yoga, journaling, [and] personal and professional coaching,” Bevan states.

Work from Home Vs. Stay-at-Home Parents

Data shows that one in five caregivers is a stay-at-home parent. These are often parents of babies and toddlers, who are full-time caregivers. With older children who can care for themselves in many ways, it opens the door to parents pursuing other activities, including remote work.

“I am exceedingly lucky that my employer is very family focused and has been encouraging of flexible working arrangements. It has allowed me to continue working and prioritize my time depending [on] the immediate circumstances of where I'm needed most,” says Bevan.

There are several things to consider when deciding if working from home versus becoming a full-time stay-at-home parent is best for you. First, can you afford to do it? What will your budget look like if only one person is working? 

Next, what will your role be with your children? Will you be teaching and homeschooling them? If the kids are at school during the day, will you use your time to take care of the home, or will you be seeking other things to hold your interest? Consider your day-to-day activities in both a stay-at-home and work-at-home arrangement.

Whether you are a full-time caregiver or have an outside job while at home, there could be drawbacks to consider.

“It's very isolating. It's hard to stay connected with friends and social outings when you're exhausted and worried all the time, or if your teen doesn't want to go out and someone needs to be home with them,” Bevan explains.

You also have less interaction with other adults. It takes time to adapt.

How to Adjust to Being At Home

A new arrangement like having a parent at home means there will need to be adjustments. If your child has been used to being more independent prior to having a parent home all the time, they also need to figure things out.

From the teens’ perspective, [if a parent is] hovering over them, that’s a huge adjustment,” Dr. Mendez notes. "[As a parent], really look at when am I butting in too much? When am I overextending? When am I underextending?” she adds.

Discussing expectations and setting boundaries are key.

“What’s helpful [is] well-established ground rules on how they’re going to all navigate the space, and private time for parents and teens,” adds Dr. Mendez.

Also, realize having mom and dad around a lot more may frustrate your teen. Be understanding and patient. Keep the end goal in mind of wanting to do what is best for your child.

“Teens need to know that they have somebody that cares, that welcomes them coming to them with questions. That kind of being available to connect, to listen, to help problem solve, is hugely important,” Dr. Mendez concludes.

What This Means For You

Kids of all ages need a parent’s love, guidance, and support. Whether you stay at home with your teen or continue working outside of the home, the key is being available and present in your child’s life.

9 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Pew Research Center. Stay-at-home moms and dads account for about one-in-five U.S. parents.

  2. Pew Research Center. COVID-19 pandemic continues to reshape work in America.

  3. Institute for Family Studies. The real housewives of America: Dad's income and mom's work.

  4. Pew Research Center. How do stay-at-home mothers spend their time at home?.

  5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. New CDC data illuminate youth mental health threats during the COVID-19 pandemic.

  6. FlexJobs. Stats about working parents & the need for flexible work.

  7. World Health Organization. Adolescent mental health.

  8. Pew Research Center. Most Americans say children are better off with a parent at home.

  9. Demographic Research. Non-standard work schedules, gender, and parental stress.

By LaKeisha Fleming
LaKeisha Fleming is a prolific writer with over 20 years of experience writing for a variety of formats, from film and television scripts, to magazines articles and digital content. She has written for CNN, Tyler Perry Studios, Motherly, Atlanta Parent Magazine, Fayette Woman Magazine, and numerous others. She is passionate about parenting and family, as well as destigmatizing mental health issues. Her book, There Is No Heartbeat: From Miscarriage to Depression to Hope, is authentic, transparent, and providing hope to many.Visit her website at www.lakeishafleming.com.