Raising a Well-Rounded Teenager Part 4: Behavioral Health


What is normal teenager behavior? It’s hard to tell when you’re having to see past hormones and all the interesting things that happen during adolescence. Is something going on that you really need to be concerned about, or is it just normal challenges that most teens go through?

During their teenage years, your children get deeper into their education and take on more responsibilities as they enter adulthood. This is also a time when behavioral health issues may begin to surface for some. But there are things parents can do to help your teens develop and sustain positive behaviors throughout their lifetime.

Supporting Teenager Behavioral Health

Steer clear of negative press about teenagers. Don’t get lost in all the negative press surrounding binge drinking, hazing, sexually transmitted diseases, and everything else we see on social media, TV, and the internet. This can cause you anxiety that may be transferred down to your child, causing both of you more strife than necessary. While it’s important to have conversations with your teen about what the media may portray as “normal teenage behavior” but are not healthy choices, make sure to discuss the exciting aspects of growing up as well. Promote their teen years as a time of growth, creativity, and exploring their passion in life. Get excited for all the experiences you will share together in their high school years.

Set clear, positive expectations for your teenager. Make sure you are directly communicating your expectations verbally. But try to “share” these expectations with them rather than imposing them onto your child. Avoid lecturing. Set clear, positive expectations and consequences up front. When a clear rule is established, it can prevent conflicts and arguments because your teen knows what to expect. If you leave room for interpretation, your teen will try to guess or set their own parameters. Being somewhat flexible is okay until you figure out what works and what doesn’t. It’s also important to be realistic in your expectations, and to avoid tendencies of pushing your child into fulfilling your dreams instead of pursuing their own goals – this can be detrimental to their future and your relationship with them.

Catch your teen in praise-worthy moments. Just as in the earlier stages of childhood, show your teen more attention for the good stuff than the bad. Do a self check. When do you interact with your teen the most…is it mostly when bad behavior is being addressed? If so, you should start looking to catch their better moments to reinforce positive behaviors.

If you believe your teen is dealing with issues of depression, anxiety, eating disorders, behavioral disorders, or conduct disorders, early intervention is critical in changing their behavior.

For more parenting information on raising teenagers, check out our entire Raising a Well-Rounded Teenager Series that includes tips for developing mental, social/emotional, and physical health.