Ann-Louise T. Lockhart, PsyD, ABPP, is a board-certified pediatric psychologist, parent coach, author, speaker, and owner of A New Day Pediatric Psychology, PLLC.
Marley Hall is a writer and fact-checker who is certified in clinical and translational research. Her work has been published in medical journals in the field of surgery, and she has received numerous awards for publication in education.
A teen's life is a roller coaster of ups and downs. Your teenager may start dating and driving. They'll look at colleges and maybe even get their first job. But many teens also have to deal with peer pressure, overloaded schedules, and, of course, puberty—when their bodies and moods seem to change by the minute.
The trick is to encourage teenagers to develop autonomy while also lending support when it's needed most. By learning about all the challenges facing today's teens, you'll be better equipped to help them organize their busy lives and set goals for themselves. With a little extra empathy and communication, you can build new bonds with your teen and set them up for success as students, friends, and young adults.
It's different for every teen. The 'tween' and early teen years may be hard as they deal with hormonal shifts, body changes, and acne. Boys start puberty between ages 10 and 16 and girls begin puberty between ages 8 and 13. Ages 16, 17, and 18 may prove challenging as academic demands pile up in preparation for college.
Friendships are important to many teens, as they are biologically wired to venture beyond the nest for human connection. However, they still value support and validation from trusted grown-ups. Research shows teens' stress levels dip more dramatically in the presence of parents than with friends.
The teen years are a great time to try new things. Teens have more independence than children but most aren't burdened yet by financial or familial obligations. This frees them up to explore a wide variety of hobbies or potential career paths. You can help teens find their calling by signing them up for interesting extracurricular activities or summer programs.
Today's busy teens have a lot on their plates. Some struggle with balancing technology and schoolwork or dealing with pressure to succeed from parents or coaches. Others grapple with loneliness, which can be tied to excessive screen use. It's important to keep tabs on your teen's mental health by checking in with them often and seeking professional help if needed.
Though maddening to parents, mood swings are typical in teens, as new hormones circulate to prepare their bodies and brains for adulthood. Risk-taking behavior is also common, tending to rise dramatically in early adolescence and peaking in the late teen years. Enforcing consequences for actions that put your teen or others at risk can help keep negative behaviors in check.
Some 70% of teens say they are stressed. While your teen might be enjoying new freedoms like dating and driving, they may also be coping with fluctuating hormones, increasing academic demands, and social drama. Plus, though they are often exciting, major life transitions like entering high school, heading to college, and working at a first job can be daunting, too.
Religious bullying is a type of intimidation that some people face for being of a certain faith. Teens who are bullied for their religion may be ridiculed or even physically harmed for wearing symbols of their religion, such as head coverings. Since 9/11, there has been a rise in anti-Muslim bullying in schools.
A boomerang kid is a term for a teen or young adult who moves back into their parents' house not long after leaving for college or the workforce. Around half of 18- to 29-year-olds live in their parents’ homes, according to a recent Pew Research Center survey.
FOMO is an acronym for the "fear of missing out" on fun things other kids are doing together. With teens regularly sharing their activities and location on social media, it's common for kids to have FOMO.
With chore contracts, kids sign an agreement to do certain chores every day or week. They help make your expectations clear and also hold teens accountable. By keeping their own spaces clean and lending a hand around the house, teens learn important life skills that will serve them in college and adulthood.
Every family should have a well-stocked first-aid kit in the house and the car. If you have a teen who's driving, they should have a first-aid kit in their own car, too. Kits should include assorted bandages and gauze pads, cloth tape, antiseptic wipes, antibiotic ointment, tweezers, an emergency blanket, and a cold compress.
Teen slang refers to words and phrases that adolescents invent to communicate with another. This insider language isn't intuitive to us parents: For instance, to today's teens, "sick" means great, "dope" is cool, and "basic" is boring.
Nemours Foundation. Understanding puberty.
Schacter HL, Margolin G. The interplay of friends and parents in adolescents’ daily lives: Towards a dynamic view of social support. Soc Dev. 2019;28(3):708-724. doi:10.1111/sode.12363
Doom JR, Doyle CM, Gunnar MR. Social stress buffering by friends in childhood and adolescence: Effects on HPA and oxytocin activity. Soc Neurosci. 2017;12(1):8-21. doi:10.1080/17470919.2016.1149095
Twenge JM, Spitzberg BH, Campbell WK. Less in-person social interaction with peers among U.S. adolescents in the 21st century and links to loneliness. J Soc Personal Relation. 2019;36(6):1892-1913. doi:10.1177/0265407519836170
National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. Promoting positive adolescent health behaviors and outcomes: Thriving in the 21st century.
Pew Research Center. Most U.S. teens see anxiety and depression as a major problem among their peers.
Pew Research Center. Assaults against Muslims in U.S. surpass 2001 level.
Pew Research Center. A majority of young adults in the U.S. live with their parents for the first time since the Great Depression.
U.S. Red Cross. Make a first aid kit.
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