Your Complete Guide to Parenting a 17-Year-Old

Teenage girl studying foreign language

Watching a child transform into a soon-to-be adult can stir up mixed emotions for many parents. And although most 17 year olds exhibit a lot of maturity, they still require a fair amount of guidance. The key to successfully parenting a 17-year-old starts by understanding your child’s development.

Emotional Development

Turning 17 represents an interesting fork in the road for many teens. Some of them take off on a smooth path toward adulthood. They become increasingly responsible and they’re eager to become independent.

Others, however, struggle with the realities of pending adulthood. Some of them seem lost and confused over the future.  They may struggle to show responsibility with their homework, chores, and daily responsibilities and may feel fearful about becoming an adult.

Social Development

Friends are still very important to teens at this age. Your teen may spend the vast majority of her free time with friends and when she’s home, she may prefer to be in her room by herself.

The parent/teen relationship may shift a little during this age. For some, that may mean growing apart as a teen gains independence, but for others, teens may actually grow closer as their desire to be rebellious fades.

Cognitive Development

By age 17, most teens have good organizational skills. Many teens are able to successfully juggle extracurricular activities, part-time jobs, and school work.

Although many 17 year olds think they’re adults, their brains still aren’t yet fully developed. So while they may have skills to regulate their impulses, they may still behave recklessly at times.

Physical Development

Both males and females are fully developed by age 16. They’ve completed puberty and reached their full height. Boys may still continue to develop muscles.

Tips for Parenting a 17-Year-Old

There's only a short window of time before your teen officially becomes an adult. Your parenting focus should be on ensuring your teen has the life skills she's going to need to be successful in the real world. Here are some steps you can take to make sure your teen is ready to become a responsible adult:

  • Don’t take your teen’s need for independence personally. Letting go of your child may cause grief and sadness as she longer depends on you for her everyday life. But don’t take her desire to be independent personally - it’s a sign that she’s developmentally right where she needs to be. 
  • Establish clear rules. It’s still common for 17 year olds to test limits so it’s important to maintain clear rules. Set a reasonable curfew and help your teen establish healthy habits.
  • Follow through with consequences. When your teen breaks the rules, follow through with consequences. Take away privileges, assign extra responsibilities, or ground her from time with friends. Turn mistakes into healthy learning opportunities.
  • Continue ongoing conversations about safety. Although many teens know they should wear their seatbelts or they should avoid using drugs, peer pressure and impulsivity can lead to poor choices. Hold ongoing conversations about steps your teen can make to stay healthy and safe.
  • Talk about your teen’s future. By now, your teen should have some ideas about what she may want to do after high school. Volunteering, part-time jobs, job shadowing, and college visits are great ways to help your teen explore future career opportunities.
  • Expect a push/pull relationship. There may be days where your teen wants you to know she still very much needs support. But there are also likely to be days where she tries to send the message she no longer needs you in her life. This is a normal part of the process.