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

The best advice for raising happy, healthy teens

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The teen years are a time to ensure your child is going to be ready for life after high school. Your teen can be quite independent in many ways. But, it’s also a time when you’ll notice areas that need some improvement and maturity before adulthood. Plus, your teen may seem on top of everything one minute and then struggle the next—this is also common during these sometimes volatile years of rapid growth and development.

When you notice your teen is having challenges or lack of understanding in certain areas, take those opportunities to teach them new life skills. Also, give them plenty of chances to practice being responsible and independent. Focusing on healthy, productive habits now can equip your teen to care for themself in the future.

parenting advice for teens
Illustration by Emily Roberts, Verywell

Daily Life

Even though there will be times when your teen insists they know everything or that they have all the skills they need to function in the adult world, there’s a good chance their 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 themself and how to perform everyday tasks and activities that will prepare them 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 they need. Many adolescents fall short of the daily recommended quotas of calcium, iron, zinc, and vitamin D.

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

According to the 2020 to 2025 United States Department of Health and Human Services dietary guidelines, teens should aim for a caloric intake that falls within a range appropriate for their age, size, and activity level. Thirteen-year-old boys need between 1,600 to 2,600 calories daily. Male teens between the ages of 14 and 18 require 2,000 to 3,200 calories daily.

Girls age 13 should aim for between 1,400 and 2,000 calories daily. Female teens aged 14 to 18 require 1,800 to 2,400 calories per day. Teens who are active more than 60 minutes per day may need more calories, while teens who are smaller and/or more sedentary will need fewer calories to maintain a healthy body mass index.

Teens make many of their own food choices, which may mean they’re likely to grab fast food with their friends. It’s important to educate your teen about making nutrient-rich food choices and to keep the focus on health, instead of weight. Discuss the importance of fueling their body and brain. Stock the kitchen with healthy fruits and vegetables, and reserve sugary, high-fat items for an occasional treat.

"With increased focus on body image and appearance, teens may also develop patterns of eating or restricted eating related to body image concerns," explains Katharine Reynolds, a professor at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and psychologist at Children’s Hospital Colorado.

Be on the lookout for dieting and body image issues, especially in girls. Some teens are trying to lose weight and may significantly alter their eating habits in ways that are not healthy. Eating disorders often emerge during the teenage years.

Physical Activity

It’s recommended that teens get at least 60 minutes of physical activity most days. Aerobic exercise should be the main form of activity. The American Academy of Pediatrics also encourages muscle and bone-strengthening activities, like jumping, three times per week.

If your teen isn’t interested in joining a sports team, don’t force it. Help them find something they really want to do. Even if your teen isn't into sports, there are many activities that can get them moving. Going for a daily walk or a bike ride, kayaking, yoga, martial arts, or swimming could be activities they enjoy. You can also make physical activity a family activity by taking an evening walk after dinner or going hiking on the weekends.

Other ways to encourage physical activity are to limit your teen's screen time and encourage them to spend time outside. Talk about the importance of keeping their 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, says Dr. Reynolds. The more responsibility they can take on now, the less they'll struggle during their transition to adulthood. 

Teenage Responsibilities

Responsibilities that are learned as teenagers include how to:

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

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 they have an opportunity to practice doing the household activities you do to maintain the home. These skills become very important as older teens will soon get more focused on other forms of independence such as getting a job or eventually moving out, says Dr. Reynolds.

Give your teen privileges based on their responsibility level. If they're able to show you that they can be trusted with household tasks, you’ll have more confidence that they can handle the responsibility of driving a car or being out with their friends unsupervised. If they do not follow your expectations, then they may lose the privilege until you decide they are ready to try again, suggests Dr. Reynolds.

"Identity exploration is also both a social and emotional milestone that occurs during this period of time," says Dr. Reynolds.

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

It’s important for your teen to know how to care for their health. Risky behavior can be one of the biggest safety issues for teens, so educate your teen about the dangers they face 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.

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.

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 American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends girls have their first gynecologic visit between the ages of 13 and 15. Additionally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends teens have their second dose of the Meningococcal vaccine at age 16.

Their 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.

Sleep Tips for Teens

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

  • 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 can interrupt your teen’s biological clock. Establish a wake-up time on non-school days that is no more than one hour later than school wake-up times.
  • Talk to your teen about their nightly routine. Discuss the importance of giving themself time to unwind before going 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 them to sleep with a smartphone in their bedroom.

Safety

Often, 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. In fact, motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of death for teens in the U.S. Teens aged 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. Using drugs or alcohol and engaging in other risky behaviors, such as unprotected sex, also need to be discussed with your teen. "Proactive and interactive conversations about these topics are helpful for creating a gateway for these conversations to occur in the future," says Dr. Reynolds.

It's important to set reasonable expectations and stick to them, as well, says Caroline Fulton, PsyD, a child and adolescent psychologist at Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital. "It’s hard to see your child be upset when you enforce a consequence or tell them they can’t do something, but having clear and predictable limits actually creates an environment of safety and predictability."

One of the greatest risks to a teen’s health is violence. In 2017, more than 1,800 teens from the ages of 15 to 19 died from violence in the U.S.

Bullying is also a prevalent issue for teens. According to a 2017 survey from the CDC, 19% of teenagers have been bullied during the previous year. And 16% 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 they're being bullied, in an abusive relationship, or how to respond if they learn 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 from 15 to 19 years of age. Approximately 7% of high school students attempt suicide in 2016, according to the CDC. However, many more teens think about suicide but don’t act on it.

If you or your teen are having suicidal thoughts, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 for support and assistance from a trained counselor. If you or a loved one are in immediate danger, call 911.

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

"While changes in mood and behavior occur during this time period, use caution not to write off all changes in behavior as 'just being a teenager.' If your child shows major changes in eating or sleeping, makes comments about death, or shows other major behavioral changes, please seek support," says Dr. Fulton.

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 is less likely to 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 their identity, too. Or, they 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.

"Today’s teens are bombarded with information through electronic media. They are often confronted with unrealistic expectations for image, performance, and relationships. Ensure that your teen gets time away from screens and support them in engaging with healthy sources of entertainment," says Dr. Fulton.

It’s also important to talk about the importance of managing their online reputation. The pictures they post, memes they share, and content they like will create a permanent record of their activity. The choices they make online now could affect them for the rest of their life. College admissions officials, potential bosses, and even future romantic partners may turn to the internet to gain information about them.

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 their online activity. Know what they're doing online and make sure they're making healthy choices.

Your Teen’s World

It’s common for your teen to think the world revolves around them sometimes. In fact, they might even think they have an “imaginary audience," which is a label for teens' belief that a group of followers exists who constantly watch and judge their every move.

Imaginary Audience

The imaginary audience belief arises from the larger concept of adolescent egocentrism. In other words, teens tend to 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 their shirt five times before heading to school, with most of the choices appearing almost identical. But this is pretty typical teen behavior.

Developing Personal Values and Beliefs

In addition to becoming more invested in social relationships, your teen will also grow more aware of social issues. They may grow invested in helping a charity or fighting for a political cause they believe in. As your teen matures, they’ll spend more time thinking about their values. They may question their faith or claim they're going to live a different lifestyle than you. That’s all part of the separation process as your teen becomes their own person.

"Teens are developing their identity and beliefs and learning more about who they are outside of their family system," says Dr. Fulton. "Parents should aim to give their teens some space to express themselves, while also ensuring they are meeting basic responsibilities and behaving safely." 

Confidence and Self-Worth

It’s common for all teens to feel like they don’t fit in sometimes. Typically, they are self-conscious and very sensitive to criticism, says Dr. Fulton. Their confidence is will probably 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.

Coping With Stress

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. Downtime is important. Teens need healthy stress reduction activities and relaxation skills. Proactively teach your teen how to recognize when their stress level is high and show them how to cope with stress in a healthy way, such as going for a walk or calling a friend.

Other Tips for Your Teen

Whether your teen loves music or they're 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 them—their job is to reach their own dreams.

As a parent, it’s typical to feel a sense of grief as your child grows up. Gone are the days when they depended on you for everything. Soon, they’ll be out on their own. Make sure you deal with your feelings of loss in a healthy way. Don’t allow your emotions to hold your child back. Also, make sure you are letting them handle any task that they can do on their own to foster the independence they'll need once they're on their own.

"Remember that your teen is approaching being an adult. Teaching your child to problem solve and navigate complex situations sets them up for success when you are not around," says Dr. Fulton.

Finally, keep in mind that you and your teen don’t have to agree on everything. They may make choices that you don't agree with or choose friends, beliefs, activities, or a career path that you don't always love. However, let them become their own person and establish themself as an individual, as long as they do it in a safe way.

A Word From Verywell

Parenting teens can be both gratifying and heart-wrenching. Your child will soon be an adult—and look at how much they have grown and learned. Be proud of your teen and prioritize your relationship and bond. It's also important to act as a sounding board for your teen rather than trying to control them or solve their problems yourself. Teens will naturally test limits, experiment, and sometimes make poor choices; however, with your guidance and support, they will thrive.

Originally written by
Amy Morin, LCSW
Amy Morin

Amy Morin, LCSW, is the Editor-in-Chief of Verywell Mind. She's also a psychotherapist, international bestselling author and host of the The Verywell Mind Podcast.

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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.
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