Talking With Your Teen: Tips for Parents

The parents of children in grades 6 through 8 are often apprehensive about the changes their children are, or will be, going through. This brochure is intended to normalize some of the behavior parents can expect from children entering puberty. While most clinicians are quite comfortable discussing the physical changes of puberty, this brochure discusses the social and emotional changes that are also occurring (most importantly, the growing independence of teenagers and the need for increased responsibility on their part).

Through the American media, parents are saturated with "typical" teenager problems (drug abuse, pregnancy, and violence). Many parents respond by restricting their children's independence in an effort to keep them safe. While this may be effective temporarily, it can set up later conflicts between parents and child. The early establishment of reasonable limits around children's behavior and appropriate parental monitoring reduces these later conflicts. Since families vary widely in their attitudes toward teenage independence and in their ability to access community supports for their teenagers, this topic can be the start of a dialogue between the clinician and the family about appropriate ways to encourage the safe, increased independence of teenagers.

The 3 major themes of the brochure are as follows:

  • Typical behaviors and feelings that teenagers go through. Communication. The most common mistake that parents can make with their children is telling them that they understand without having heard the whole story. The brochure provides guidance for active listening skills that are especially important as the child enters adolescence.
  • Importance of parental monitoring and limit setting. The brochure offers direction to parents about monitoring their children's behavior. Encouraging appropriate independence is not the same as relaxing parental monitoring. Because most risk-taking behavior among young teenagers occurs between the time when school is out and dinner, parents need to continue observing their children's whereabouts, activities, and friendships. The brochure includes information about warning signs parents can identify in their children.
How to Use This Tool

  • It is best used as an adjunct to a discussion about the physical changes of puberty. Some clinicians begin by asking the child if they have learned about puberty in school and assessing the child's current level of knowledge. At this point, clinicians can then ask, "I'm sure there are many other changes going on that you can't see with your eyes, aren't there?"
  • Clinicians also can speak directly with the parents to elicit their concerns about their child's puberty. The brochure offers a way to talk with parents about these other adolescent issues. Many parents can remember their own early adolescence and the issues they had with their parents. It can be helpful to ask parents to recall how they behaved and coped at this age.
Helpful Hints

  • Use this brochure, along with other AAP materials, when addressing school groups and Parent-Teacher Associations (PTAs)/Parent-Teacher Organizations (PTOs) about the changes during puberty.
  • Although written for parents, many teenagers may also be interested in reading the information that is provided. It is worthwhile to encourage this.

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