5 Tips for Parents as Their Teens Navigate Puberty

Some behaviors are normal, while some are concerning—here’s how to differentiate.

Although parenthood is filled with many joys, it also has its stressful and difficult moments, too. For many parents, when their children go through puberty, it can be a particularly trying time.

Puberty generally starts from ages 11-13. While they transition into adulthood, children may be moody, grumpy, sad or anxious. During this time, teens are often trying to figure out who they are, where they stand with their peers and in society. Because of those changes, sometimes teens may feel like complete strangers to their parents. These behaviors are completely normal, but can leave parents with questions.

Some behaviors are perfectly normal and don’t warrant much concern. These include teens needed more alone time; an increased use of social media—but not to the detriment of other interests like sports, music or the arts; exploring new interests or even trying on different personalities; being emotionally sensitive; becoming focused on their physical appearance; turning to friends for emotional support, rather than family; and beginning to engage in mildly risky behaviors around alcohol, drugs and sex.

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More concerning behaviors to monitor include teens experiencing frequent bouts of sadness that interfere with academic performance and peer relationships; defiant behavior; self-jury or suicidal thoughts; unhealthy use of social media, including cyber bullying and sexting; excessive use of technology in lieu of personal interaction; excessive isolation; and changes in eating and sleeping habits.

If your teen is engaging in concerning behaviors, take action with these five tips.

  1. Keep channels of communication open. It’s important for your teen to know they are safe and can talk to you whenever they need.
  2. Proactively address issues. Don’t wait for your teen to bring them up. Discuss topics like sex, alcohol, drugs, sexting, depression and anxiety.
  3. Curb critical talk. Your teenager’s brain is sensitive and the words you use when talking to them have a real impact, so be mindful. The more kind and gentle you are with your teen, they’re more likely to develop positive-self-esteem.
  4. Curb social media use. Growing up in the digital age makes it harder for teens to find themselves, so encourage time away from the screen and exploring interests in the real world.

Ask for help. The earlier mental health issues are addressed, the better they can be treated. 

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