Parents, family members, and adolescents all have a role to play in supporting healthy adolescent development.
Families are encouraged to take action on one or more of the following roles to improve adolescent health and development.
Parents, Families, and Guardians: Making a Difference
Parents, grandparents, family members, and guardians may not always know the role they should play in promoting the health of the adolescents in their care.
Parents may sometimes feel irrelevant in the lives of their older children,1-3 and shifts in parenting approaches are needed to accommodate adolescents’ increasing autonomy. But adolescents who report parental oversight, connectedness, communication, and/or support are less likely to engage in risky behaviors than those who report not having those resources from their parents.4-6 Adolescents report that they want to receive advice from their parents.7
Action Steps and Resources
- Ensure your adolescent receives medical and dental care, as well as mental and behavioral health services as needed
- Learn what to expect with your adolescent’s development
- Start and keep the conversations going
- Be a good role model
- Encourage physical activity, sleep, and healthy eating
- Prepare adolescents for managing their health as they move towards adulthood
- Make time for the adolescents in your life
Ensure your adolescent receives medical and dental care, as well as mental and behavioral health services as needed
Make sure adolescents receive recommended preventive health care, including vaccinations and dental care, as well as care when they are sick. Learn what the warning signs are for depression or negative risks such as abnormal weight loss, persistent sadness, or illegal drug use, and be on the lookout. Even though teens are generally healthy, regular visits allow health care providers to screen for healthy development, provide shots/screens, and brief interventions.
Learn what to expect with your adolescent’s development
Talk to your child’s health care provider about the expected developmental, psychological, emotional, and physical changes as they move through early, middle, and late adolescence so that you can adjust your expectations and plan accordingly. Check out online resources such as those available on OAH’s website.
Start and keep the conversations going
Talk with adolescents about health and developmental changes that occur during adolescence and into young adulthood. Keep lines of communication open, set boundaries, and monitor behavior while providing increasing autonomy as they develop. Compliment adolescents, and celebrate their efforts and accomplishments. Additionally, share your family’s values with adolescents and let them know you will support them if they need to make difficult decisions (For example, “It is okay to say to one of your friends that I won’t allow you to do something” or “You can always call home if you need help”). Role play with your adolescent to provide concrete practice in how to handle difficult situations. Be a good listener and support positive behaviors that reduce risks.
Be a good role model
Model healthy behavior and habits (such as wearing a seat belt, exercising, eating nutritious food) and "practice what you preach" by not using tobacco products, never texting or talking on the phone while driving, and modeling moderate alcohol use (if you choose to drink).
Encourage physical activity, sleep, and healthy eating
Encourage youth to be and stay active with at least 60 minutes of physical activity a day. Help the adolescents in your life to get the sleep they need. Prepare healthy food and snacks and limit junk food. When possible, avoid keeping unhealthy, highly-processed food in the house.
Prepare adolescents for managing their health as they move towards adulthood
Teach your adolescents how to use the healthcare system, how to fill out the forms at the doctor’s office, how to make appointments, get referrals (if needed), and where to get information online that can be trusted.
Make time for the adolescents in your life
Be an engaged parent or guardian as your adolescent transitions into young adulthood. Help him or her make good decisions and manage conflict. Teach them about online privacy. Help them be connected at school and in your community. Support adolescents in building healthy relationships with peers and trusted adults in the family and community (e.g. school). Be thoughtful and strategic in managing mistakes adolescents commonly make in defining their autonomy.
Schaefer, D.R., Simpkins, S.D., Vest, A.E., & Price, C.D. (2011). The contribution of extracurricular activities to adolescent friendships: New insights through social network analysis. Developmental Psychology, 47(4), 1141–1152. Retrieved June 30, 2016, from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3134619/pdf/nihms-294155.pdf
Kort-Butler, L.A., & Hagewen, K.J. (2011). School-based extracurricular activity involvement and adolescent self-esteem: A growth-curve analysis. Journal of Youth & Adolescence, 40(5), 568–581. Retrieved June 30, 2016, from http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1197&context=sociologyfacpub&s
Krebs, N. F., Jacobson, M. S., & American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Nutrition. (2003). Prevention of pediatric overweight and obesity. Pediatrics, 112(2), 424-430. Retrieved June 30, 2016, from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12897303
Smetana, J.G., Campione-Barr, N., & Metzger, A. (2006). Adolescent development in interpersonal and societal contexts. Annual Review of Psychology, 57(1), 255-284. Retrieved June 30, 2016, from http://www.researchgate.net/publication/7449567_Adolescent_development_in_interperson
DiClemente, R.J., Wingood, G.M., Crosby, R., Sionean, C., Cobb, B.K., Harrington, K., et al. (2001). Parental monitoring: Association with adolescents' risks behaviors. Pediatrics, 107(6), 1363–1368.
Simpson, A.R. (2001). Raising Teens: A synthesis of research and a foundation for action. Cambridge, MA: Harvard School of Public Health. Retrieved June 30, 2016, from http://hrweb.mit.edu/worklife/raising-teens/pdfs/raising_teens_report.pdf
Albert, B. (2012). With one voice: America's adults and teens sound off about teen pregnancy. Washington, D.C.: The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. Retrieved June 30, 2016, from https://thenationalcampaign.org/sites/default/files/resource-primary-download/wov_2012.pdf