Teen Parenting Tips (13, 14, 15, 16, 17, and 18-Year-Olds)

The best advice for raising happy, healthy teens.

The teen years are a time to ensure your child is going to be ready for life after high school. You’ll likely notice your teen can be quite independent in many ways. But, it’s also a time when you’ll notice areas that need some improvement.

When you notice your teen is struggling in certain areas, teach her new life skills. And give her plenty of opportunities to practice being responsible and independent. Focusing on healthy habits now can equip your teen to care for herself in the future.

parenting advice for teens
Illustration by Emily Roberts, Verywell

Daily Life

Even though there will be times when your teen insists he knows everything or that he has all the skills he needs to function in the adult world, there’s a good chance his skills could use some fine-tuning.

Of course, the teen years come with many new opportunities too. Getting a driver's license and getting a part-time job are just a few of the milestones that will give your teen opportunities to practice being responsible.

In the meantime, it’s important to teach your teen how to take care of himself and how to perform everyday activities that will prepare him for the future.

Diet & Nutrition

A well-rounded diet based on the USDA guidelines should help your teen get all the essential vitamins and minerals he needs. Adolescents are going to most likely fall short of the daily recommended quotas of calciumironzinc, and vitamin D.

Unless blood tests and a pediatrician's evaluation reveal a specific deficiency, it's preferable to obtain nutrients from food rather than dietary supplements.

When it comes to caloric intake, moderately active boys require:

Moderately active girls between 13 and 18 require 2,000 calories per day.

Teens who are active more than 60 minutes per day may need more calories while teens who are sedentary will need fewer calories to maintain a healthy body mass index.

Teens make many of their own food choices. That may mean they’re likely to grab fast food with their friends. It’s important to educate your teen about making good choices.

Keep the focus on health, instead of weight. Discuss the importance of fueling his body and brain.

Keep the kitchen stocked with healthy fruits and vegetables. Reserve sugary items for an occasional treat.

Be on the lookout for dieting and body image issues, especially in girls. Teen girls are often trying to lose weight and many of them restrict their food intake or begin to eat only certain types of food. Eating disorders often emerge during the teenage years.

Physical Activity

It’s recommended that teens get 60 minutes of physical activity every day. Aerobic exercise should be the main form of activity.

But muscle-building exercises, like strength training, and bone-building exercises, like jumping, are also important for good health.

If your teen isn’t interested in joining a sports team, don’t force it. Help her find something she really wants to do. Going for a daily walk or a bike ride, kayaking, or swimming could be activities she enjoys more than being on a team sport.

Even if your teen isn't into sports, there are many activities that can get him moving. You can also make physical activity a family activity. Go for an evening walk after dinner or go hiking on the weekends.

Limit your teen's screen time and encourage him to spend time outside. Talk about the importance of keeping his body healthy and make it a priority to be a good role model.

Around the House

The teen years are a critical time for young people to practice making decisions on their own and to be given more responsibility. The more responsibility they can take on now, the less they'll struggle during their transition to adulthood. 

Responsibilities that are learned as teenagers include:

  • Complete tasks efficiently and correctly at home, school, and work.
  • To care for their own personal hygiene and possessions.
  • Show compassion for other people.
  • To be socially responsible in their day to day lives and online.
  • Control their emotions and interact appropriately with people.
  • Understand that sexual activity can lead to consequences.
  • How to handle peer pressure situations, like drinking, smoking and doing drugs.
  • Adult privileges like driving a car or having a bank account.
  • Hold a job and work well with others in a team.
  • The ability to earn and spend money wisely.

Make sure your teen knows how to do important household tasks, like laundry and cooking basic meals. You may want to rotate chores sometimes to ensure that he has an opportunity to practice doing the household activities you do to maintain the home.

Give your teen privileges based on his responsibility level. If he’s able to show you that he can be trusted with household tasks, you’ll have more confidence that he can handle the responsibility of driving of a car or being out with his friends unsupervised.

While your teen will want to spend the majority of his time with his friends, it’s important to insist on spending some time together as a family. A monthly family fun night or weekly pizza night might be traditions you decide to keep.

Eat meals together as a family whenever you can. This can be an important way to connect with your teen on an everyday basis.

Health & Safety

It’s important for your teen to know how to care of his health. Risky behavior can be one of the biggest dangers teens face. So educate your teen about the dangers he faces and take away privileges when your teen makes poor choices.

Visiting the Doctor

Teens can continue seeing their pediatrician until they are 21. Annual wellness checks are recommended for teenagers.

Sports physicals, acne, respiratory infections, asthma, and skin issues are common reasons teens need to see their pediatrician in between annual visits.

It’s important to give teens an opportunity to speak with the pediatrician privately. They may have questions about sex, sexuality, STDs, alcohol, drugs, or other sensitive issues that they aren’t comfortable speaking about in front of a parent.

The pediatrician should check your child’s body mass index, provide counseling on physical activity and nutrition, and provide education on sexually transmitted infections.

Sexually active teens may be routinely tested for sexually transmitted diseases, including chlamydia and gonorrhea, even if they don’t have any symptoms.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends girls have their first gynecologic visit between the ages of 13 and 15.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends teens have their second dose of the Meningococcal vaccine at age 16.

The pediatrician should also screen for mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety. It’s important to bring up any concerns you may have about your teen’s mood or behavior.

Sleep

The AAP recommends teens receive between 8 and 10 hours of sleep each night. Early school start times can make it difficult for teens to get the recommended amount of sleep.

Their biological clocks cause them to stay up later and sleep in longer. This makes waking early very difficult.

There are several things you can do to help your teen get enough sleep:

  • Talk to your teen about her nightly routine. Discuss the importance of giving herself time to unwind before she goes to bed. Reading or taking a bath can be good ways to unwind.
  • Turn off electronic devices early. Shut off smartphones, laptops, and TVs at least 30 minutes before bedtime. Don't allow her to sleep with a smartphone in her bedroom.
  • Discourage naps. Falling asleep after school can interfere with nighttime sleep.
  • Keep your teen's sleep schedule consistent. Sleeping in on the weekends or staying up too late on vacations will interrupt your teen’s biological clock. Establish a wake-up time on non-school days that is no more than onehour later than school wake up times.

Safety

The biggest safety issue teens face is their risky choices. They’re likely to be impulsive at times, and sadly, it only takes one bad decision to get into a serious accident.

Motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death for teens in the U.S. Teens age 16 to 19 have a much greater risk of death or injury in a car crash than any other age group.

Before your teen gets behind the wheel—or becomes a passenger with a teen driver—it’s important to understand the biggest dangers that lead to teen car crashes. Distracted driving, speed, and driver inexperience are all factors that can contribute to motor vehicle accidents in teens.

Create rules for your teen and make your expectations clear. Talk about consequences for reckless behavior, such as driving too fast or getting in the car with someone who has been drinking.

The second greatest risk to a teen’s health is violence. More than 16,000 teens die from violence every year in the U.S.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly one-third of teenagers have been bullied or have engaged in bullying themselves. And 33 percent of students reported carrying a weapon (a knife or gun) at least once in the previous 30 days.

Talk to your teen about how to stay safe. Discuss what to do if he’s bullied or how to respond if he learns of another student carrying a weapon. Talk about dating violence as well, since many acts of violence occur in romantic relationships.  

Suicide is the third leading cause of death for teens. Approximately 1 in 11 high school students will attempt suicide. Many more teens think about suicide but don’t act on it.

While there are many factors that contribute to suicide, loneliness, depression, family problems, and substance abuse can place a teen at an especially high risk.

It’s important to monitor your teen’s mental health. If you suspect your teen may have a mental health issue or she’s expressed thoughts of suicide, seek professional help. You can start by talking to her pediatrician.

Technology

Technology plays a huge role in the everyday lives of teenagers. It’s changed how they date, socialize, and communicate.

Stay up-to-date on the latest apps, social media sites, and digital devices teens are using. Your teen won’t listen to your warnings if you aren’t educated about the risks and dangers.

Cyberbullies and sexual predators pose credible risks. But those aren’t the only threats your teen faces online.

People may attempt to steal her identity too. Or, she may be invited to participate in scams or fraudulent activity, without even realizing it. So it’s important to educate your teen about these dangers.

It’s also important to talk about the importance of managing his online reputation. The pictures he posts, memes he shares, and content he likes will create a permanent record of his activity.

The choices he makes online now could affect him for the rest of his life. College admissions officials, future bosses, and even future romantic partners may turn to the internet to gain information about him.

Create clear rules for your teen’s smartphone and other electronic devices. Establish consequences for breaking the rules.

While you don’t need to read every message your teen sends, monitor his online activity. Know what he’s doing online and make sure he’s making healthy choices.

Your Teen’s World

It’s normal for your teen to think the world revolves around him sometimes. In fact, he might even think he has an “imaginary audience.”

The "imaginary audience" is a label for teens' belief that a group of followers exists who constantly watch and judge their every move. The belief arises from the larger concept of adolescent egocentrism, that teens think the world revolves around them and that everyone is paying attention to how they look and what they do. This is a normal phase of social development in teens.

It can be exasperating for a parent to see their teen change his shirt five times before heading to school, with most of the choices appearing almost identical. But this is normal teen behavior.

In addition to becoming more invested in social relationships, your teen will also grow more aware of social issues. He may grow invested in helping a charity or fighting for a political cause he believes in.

As your teen matures, he’ll spend more time thinking about his values. He may question his faith or claim he’s going to live a different lifestyle than you. That’s all part of the separation process as your teen becomes his own person.

It’s normal for all teens to feel like they don’t fit in sometimes. Their confidence is also likely to waiver. But for teens who are bullied and ostracized, adolescence is likely to be an especially rough time.

If your teen is struggling to fit in socially, consider getting professional help. Loneliness and isolation could lead to mental health problems.

It’s also important to keep a close eye on your teen’s stress level. Academic issues, social problems, sports-related pressure, and preparing for the future can be overwhelming at times.

Make sure your teen isn't over-scheduled. Down time is important.

Teens need healthy stress reduction activities and relaxation skills. Proactively teach your teen how to recognize when her stress level is high and show her how to cope with stress in a healthy way.

Quick Tips

Whether your teen loves music or he's into sports, support your teen's efforts to be an individual. That may mean taking a step back and realizing that your teen's job isn't to fulfill your dreams for him—his job is to reach his own dreams. 

As a parent, it’s normal to feel a sense of grief as your child grows up. Gone are the days when she depended on you and soon, she’ll be out on her own.

Make sure you deal with your emotions in a healthy way. Don’t allow your feelings to hold your child back

Finally, keep in mind that you and your teen don’t have to agree on everything. Let him become his own person and establish himself as an individual, as long as he is doing it in a safe way.

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