Social / Emotional

Almost Grown-ups (But Not)

Teenagers: They spend a ton of time with friends, might be borderline nocturnal, and probably spend most of their waking hours at home eating your food. What is actually going on inside those (still) growing brains? We may never really know.

We probably don’t need to tell you that your teenager has a life of their own at this point. Gone are the days when we were their first and primary influencers. But while they’re still living under your roof, you have the chance to get to know the mini-grown-ups they’re becoming. 

What’s happening during these critical teen years?

1

Their lives revolve around their friends. For better or for worse, those peer groups have become really central. Hopefully, they’ve found good friends and have positive relationships with them—but if you get the sense that their friendships are becoming troublesome or toxic, it’s not too late to gently intervene.

2

They’ll come into contact with risky stuff and have to make tough decisions. Often—usually—you won’t be there when they’re making these decisions. So the best you can do is keep the open lines of communication at home, and make sure they know you have their back. Make a plan for how they’ll get themselves out of uncomfortable situations: Can you or another trusted adult pick them up, anytime and anywhere, if they need you to? Do they have a way to pay for a taxi or Uber if necessary?

3

They’ll have trusted adults in their lives who aren’t you. Favorite teachers, guidance counselors, coaches—often, it’s the peripheral adults in your teen’s life who become really important influencers. The more you can figure out who those people are and get to know them, the better. (Because we all know that sometimes, the best messenger for a tough message is anyone but The Parents.)

4

They might be moody, self-centered, and not very pleasant to be around—but it’s probably temporary. Most teens are on their way out of the heavy hormonal mood swing phase of life. By the time you’ve got a junior or senior on your hands, you might actually enjoy their company again.

5

They’re becoming better at voicing their emotions. This is especially true toward the end of high school, when older teens have really learned to identify and articulate how they’re feeling. Hopefully, they’ll continue to feel comfortable sharing those feelings with you—but don’t be surprised/offended if you’re not their first stop anymore. If you’re having trouble getting more than one-word answers out of your teen, check out these tips.

6

They might be experimenting with who they want to be. That could include anything from their clothing or hairstyle to peer groups, activities, and sexuality. Some of this experimenting might make you nervous. This might be the hardest part of raising a human yet, if that is possible—loving them for whoever they are, even if they’re not exactly who we imagined. But if they’re being honest with you about all of that, consider yourself Winning At Parenting.