Supporting Your Child Through the Teen Years

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By Angel Wagner, MSW, LSW – March 20, 2024

Being a teenager can be rough. We think we have it hard as adults, juggling work, home, family finances, and more. Imagine having some of those responsibilities, plus you’re not quite sure who you are, where you want to go in life, and what you want to be. It’s no wonder our teens are experiencing anxiety.

Teens report feeling significant pressure when it comes to making immediate decisions about exactly what they want to do after high school. Four years go by in the blink of an eye, and some teens report they don’t even know what hobbies they enjoy, let alone what they’re going to study in college or what career they’re going to choose.

These suggestions on how to show support may help ease your teen’s anxiety about themselves and their future. First, a supportive environment with a lot of options is key. As a school social worker, I hear teens say every day how they just want to make their mother, father, or other parental figure proud. However, they worry that because they are interested in something like art and their parent is a lawyer that they are a complete letdown. Allowing your teen to explore their options and find what they are passionate about with a supportive “I’m so proud of you” attitude can help ease their mind. Kind words go a long way.

Encourage your teen to take a break sometimes. High school is challenging! Teens have multiple courses in their high school curriculum, and some even juggle college credits to get a head start on their post-secondary education. When you add sports, clubs, maybe a part-time job, and social activities, there’s a lot on their plate!

As a parent, you have a lot on your plate as well, but it’s important to spend quality time with your teenager. Use vacation time, put your phones away, and take your teen somewhere you would all enjoy. If you can’t get away, create a “staycation” by enjoying activities close to home, visiting local parks or attractions, or even pitch a tent in the backyard! We all need a break, and your child will enjoy the memories for a lifetime.

Last, but definitely not least, talk it out. Life is so busy. Adults have hectic schedules and work obligations, and teens are trying to figure it all out before May of senior year. Sometimes a vent session is needed. Even if your teen is not receptive right away, just knowing they can talk to you goes a long way. You may even consider having them talk to a professional. Therapy can help your teen learn the coping and communication skills needed to navigate the decisions they are facing in the years ahead.

Life gives us so many paths to take and decisions to make, which can leave our heads spinning. Giving your teen praise and support, making memories, taking breaks, and providing a free space to vent about their struggles are just a few simple ways you can help ease their minds about the big decisions they are facing during this season of life.