05 Mar 5 Normal Teen Behaviors
Being a parent or caregiver is hard enough, but caring for a teen brings an entire new set of challenges and rewards that other parents/caregivers yet to experience. Helping to guide your teen through adolescence – one of the most tumultuous times in a person’s life – can be overwhelming and frustrating at times. However, it’s important to know that those feelings are completely normal!
One helpful way to reduce your stress and frustration as a teen parent/caregiver is to know what teen behaviors are normal and when you may want to consider reaching out for more assistance:
1. Heightened emotions – The limbic system of your teen’s brain, which serves as the pleasure and rewards function, is heightened during adolescence. However, their prefrontal cortex, the area where judgement, reasoning, and logic take place, is still forming until around the age of 25. This combination may increase your teen’s likelihood of engaging in emotional decision-making, including how they react to their environment around them. Helping your teen know that these heightened feelings are normal and finding solutions to manage them can help build emotional regulation skills that can last a lifetime.
2. Pushing parents away (striving for independence) – Teens often deal with issues in their daily lives that they do not wish to discuss with their parents. Their desire for privacy and independence often looks like they are pushing away their loved ones. Some parents will push their teens to share with them, which only causes them to drift further away. Others may give too much space, causing them to worry that their teen will drift away. It’s important to strike a balance by showing your teen unconditional love and making sure they know that you are always around to listen and support without judgement.
3. Attempting to “Fit In” – Teens often develop their identity by comparing themselves with their peers. They may even try to “remake” themselves to fit into specific crowds. It’s important as the parent of a teen to recognize the implications that peer pressure (whether positive or negative) can have on our teens. You can’t pick your teen’s friends, but you can ensure that they are in environments that foster positive peer relationships, such as school, sports leagues, youth development organizations, and after-school programs.
4. Development in romantic relationships/attractions – Around the time of adolescence, teens begin to feel romantic attractions and the many emotions that come with that. While parents may worry about the physical and emotional toll these attractions and relationships may have, there are things parents can be sure to discuss with their teens to mitigate these risks, such as healthy relationship boundaries, consent, and what is/is not appropriate in romantic relationships.
5. Struggles dealing with stress – Teens face a lot of pressure, including school, peers, and their developing autonomy. Some stress during this difficult time is normal, even expected. It’s important for parents to encourage their teens to utilize healthy coping skills and techniques to deal with their stress. It’s also important to teach teens that they can reach out to us without judgement if they begin to feel overwhelmed by their stress and worries. If you notice your teen’s anxiety impacting other areas of their life, such as their relationships or school, help them reach out to a mental health professional for additional assistance.
The best thing you can do as a parent of a teen is to provide support and encouragement whenever possible. Remember to take time for yourself when necessary, notice the rewards of parenting a teen, and know that you’re doing a great job!
Check out Face It’s Caring for Teens webpage for more information.