Five Basics of Parenting Adolescents: Love and Connect

Key Message for Parents:
Most things about their world are changing.
Don’t let your love be one of them.

Teens need parents to develop and maintain a relationship with them that offers support and acceptance, while accommodating and affirming the teen’s increasing maturity. Studies find that supportive relationships with both mothers and fathers are linked with lower risk of substance abuse, depression, and delinquency—as well as with higher levels of self-reliance, better school performance, and successful future relationships.

The challenge for parents is to provide this support at the same time that adolescents are working to establish their own values and identities— efforts that often manifest as increased criticism, emotional distancing, and withdrawal from family activities.

The research-based strategies at right provide a starting point for parents wishing to encourage and support their developing adolescents.


  • Watch for moments to express genuine affection, respect, and appreciation for your teen.
  • Acknowledge the good times made possible by your teen’s personality and growth.
  • Expect increased criticism and debate. Strengthen your skills for discussing ideas and disagreeing in ways that respect both your teen’s opinions and your own.
  • Spend time just listening to your teen’s fears, concerns, interests, ideas, and perspectives.
  • Treat your teen as a unique individual distinct from siblings, stereotypes, his or her past, or your own past.
  • Appreciate and acknowledge your teen’s new areas of interest. Appreciate the positive aspects of adolescence, such as passion, humor, and deepening intellectual thought.
  • Provide meaningful roles for your teen in the family, ones that are genuinely important to the family’s well-being.
  • Spend time together one on one and as a family. Continue some familiar family routines, while also finding new ways to connect.