Five Basics of Parenting Adolescents: Provide and Advocate

Key Message for Parents:
You can’t control their world, but you can change it.

The idea that children have the right to adequate food, clothing, shelter, and healthcare—and that parents have a responsibility to provide or advocate for these basic needs—is widely shared across cultures. Less widely recognized is the concept that adolescents also need parents to help provide “social capital,” seeking out resources, guidance, training, and support within the community that will prepare the child to enter a widening world.

For parents, the challenge is to accomplish these tasks in the face of barriers such as family poverty, racism, oppression, unemployment, domestic violence, and a lack of community resources. It helps for parents to collaborate with teens in addressing the problems they face. Mentoring also can be a significant means of providing adult support, guidance, and training.

The strategies at right can be effective across a broad range of family circumstances.


  • Network within the community as well as within schools, the family, religious organizations, and social services to identify resources that can provide positive adult and peer relationships, guidance, training, and activities for your teen.
  • Make informed decisions among available options for schools and educational programs. Take into account safety, social climate, approach to diversity and special needs, community cohesion, opportunities for mentoring, and fit with your teen’s learning style.
  • Offer continual support for decision making through teaching by example and ongoing dialogue.
  • Arrange or advocate for preventive healthcare and treatment, including care for mental illness.
  • Identify people and programs to support and inform you in handling parental responsibilities and the challenges of raising your adolescent.