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Family Life Cycle - Parenting: Babies Through Adolescents

Parenting adolescents

Parenting teenagers can be a rough time for your family and can test your relationship skills. It's also a time for positive growth and creative exploration for your entire family. Families that function best during this period have strong, flexible relationships developed through good communication, problem solving, mutual caring, support, and trust.

Most teens experiment with different thoughts, beliefs, and styles, which can cause family conflict. Your strengths as an individual and as part of a couple are critical as you deal with the increasing challenges of raising a teenager. Strive for a balanced atmosphere in which your teenager has a sense of support and emotional safety as well as opportunities to try new behaviors. An important skill at this stage is flexibility as you encourage your child to become independent and creative. Establish boundaries for your teenager, but encourage exploration at the same time. Teens may question themselves in many areas, including their sexual orientation and gender identities.

Because of what you learned when you developed your identity in the earlier stages of life, you may feel more prepared and more secure about the changes your child is going through. But if you did not work through these skills at earlier stages of life, you may feel threatened by your child's new developments.

Flexibility in the roles each person plays in the family system is a valuable skill to develop at this stage. Responsibilities such as the demands of a job or caring for someone who is ill may require each person in the family to take on various, and sometimes changing, roles.

This is a time when one or more family members may feel some level of depression or other distress. It may also lead to physical complaints that have no physical cause (somatization disorders such as stomach upsets and some headaches) along with other stress-related disorders.

Nurturing your relationship and your individual growth can sometimes be ignored at this stage. Toward the end of this phase, a parent's focus shifts from the maturing teen to career and relationship. Neglecting your personal development and your relationship can make this shift difficult.

You also may begin thinking about your role in caring for aging parents. Making your own health a priority in this phase is helpful as you enter the next stage of the family life cycle.

Specific goals during the stage of parenting adolescents include:

  • Shifting parent-child relationships to allow the child to move in and out of the family system.
  • Shifting focus back to your midlife relationship and career issues.
  • Beginning a shift toward concern for older generations in your extended family.
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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: January 03, 2013
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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