Evolving Parenthood: How To Grow Along With Your Teen

Posted on December 11th, 2014

Carol Satterlee, CPCLife & Relationship CoachOn The Edge of Coaching

To parents of teens: Welcome to evolving parenthood. As your child evolves into their teen years and beyond, you must also evolve. No longer can you micromanage their every move by choosing their friends, their clothes, or activities, let alone what or how they should think. No, these are the years parents must allow their teen to take more control of their own life in order to develop self-esteem, responsibilities and resiliency.

So how do we evolve? Start by listening more to your teen rather than hearing yourself talk at them. This one change provides opportunities so he can express himself more often. Imagine how respected he will feel as you listen to his thoughts and opinions. Continue asking curious questions without the need to express your own opinions or judgments.

As an evolving parent, stand in her shoes and imagine all those stresses! Should I take more Advanced Placement classes? When should I study for the SATs / ACT? Where should I volunteer? What about extra-curricular activities or part-time work?? And parents, your teen also faces emotional and social dramas. Your empathy is needed here.

Discern where your own stresses are coming from. Are you confused with school requirements and schedules that your teen must meet? Do you feel guilt or anxiety for not having more time and knowledge around how to guide your teen? Wherever your stresses originate, investigate and address them. Stop passing them on. The more you recognize your own stresses, the better able you are to pause and refocus on how you can support their needs and concerns.

Listen respectfully to what your teen’s goals are. Are they his goals? Or are you pushing your own agenda that he is resisting? Are you sensing he’s feeling insecure or frustrated with talk of future plans? Make time to find out what he wants or hopes for in the next chapter of life. True, some teens may not know. This is where your guidance and understanding comes in. Ask if you can share your thoughts and ideas. Work at coming to agreement and know you are both working towards the same goals… his!

Let go of taking full control. Find and welcome other support resources. Are you feeling uneasy and ill-prepared as to how to support her? Are you assuming you know how to guide her through personal or academic challenges? Yet in your efforts, is she putting more distance between you? No matter how many times I prompted my daughter to follow up on pre-college application matters, it fell on deaf ears. But once she connected with her guidance counselor, she took the necessary steps. I’m thankful for her counselor. Don’t let your own ego get in the way. Welcome and be grateful for other support resources.

In the end, whatever your teen’s goals are during or after high school, they need your support and respect. For many, this is their starting point of independence and life-long decision making. Continue evolving just as your teen must. Be the parent your teen wants to connect with when it really matters.


In what areas has it been difficult for you to evolve as your child became a teenager?

What have you done to show your teen that you support his/her goals?

Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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Would you like additional guidance in this area? Los Gatos Teen Therapy provides individual teen therapy, family therapy, group therapy, parent support counseling, and in-home teen and family coaching 7 days a week, including afternoons, evenings, and weekends. For more information, contact us at 408.389.3538.

12 thoughts on “Evolving Parenthood: How To Grow Along With Your Teen

  1. Lindsay Smith

    This is great! I love the idea of not passing on our own stresses on to our teens – they surely have enough of their own! It’s such a good reminder that we need to be aware of how we are feeling so that we don’t allow it to dictate how we treat others. I also really like the point of letting go of taking full control. It’s so easy to think that we know what will be best for our teens that it is sometimes hard to remember that we really do need to let them take the reigns. I’m really looking forward to hearing other parents’ feedback on what has worked for them!

    1. Ruben

      I like these points too. I recently wondered if I transferred my stress. Then thought to myself, of course you do. 🙂 I also like the idea of asking if I can share my thoughts or ideas rather than just barging ahead and giving them. I don’t think I even give the kids the chance to ask the question, “What do you think dad?”

      1. Carol Satterlee

        Hey Ruben, thanks for your post and more so your willingness to share your own question to yourself! The concept of “evolving” may assume we know our kids are changing. However, we as parents must in order to grow with them! When kids are young, we can pretty much call the shots to have them fit into our schedules, our rules, our moods, our plans… etc. However, as a parent of preteens and teens, I’m sure your experiencing their responses to you are different now that they are coming into their own. So, Ruben, I invite you to try every chance you can to catch yourself from just telling them your opinions or problem-solving solutions. Hang back and instead ask questions as you noted and keep asking with a respectful sense of curiosity. Notice how your kids will keep engaging with you!

        Please share with us how it turns out, ok? — Until then, take good care.

  2. Carol Satterlee

    Now that my own two kids are young adults, I can attest to the fact that putting these tips into practice was not always easy! However, I did and continue to work at these behaviors. I’ve always told parents that working at these efforts will reward you for a long-lasting, healthy and loving relationships. Every day we get to practice and with that commitment, you’ll notice changes first with yourself… and then with others!

  3. DHS2014

    Having an “outsider” giving my kids advice always to seemed to be a positive. They were more receptive even if that source was telling them the same thing I was. My job was to find the right outside source, and then to get my kids to talk to them.

    1. Carol Satterlee

      Dear DHS2014 – I love what you shared here and I totally identify with this when my daughter was a teen! Knowing she was listening to her guidance counselor and favorite teachers along with favorite relatives and friends not only provided her with ideas and different perspectives, her sharing with me also opened up my own eyes. You are so spot on and if more parents could invite this mindset, they can feel that “community support” and open to “it takes a village.” Thanks for sharing your wisdom!

  4. Uriah Guilford, MFT

    Great suggestions here Carol. I particularly like the recommendation to “listen respectfully to what your teen’s goals are.” That can go a long way to working more collaboratively and getting on the same page. So true that we need to change and grow along with our kids. Thanks for the work you do!

    1. Carol Satterlee

      Hi Uriah, thanks for your comment and acknowledgement! Last night my biz partner and I gave a talk on how to support your teen who is college bound. This is when some parents may need to shift a bit and let their teen take the lead in order to honor their goals. So many times I hear from teens who feel it’s their parents who have their college agenda in mind and, thus they the teen, must fulfill it. This is particularly so for kids whose parents have come from different countries to provide a better or “best” education for them. Kids feel so much stress to meet those needs and some feel extremely guilty if they don’t meet their parents’ plans. My suggestion… parents let your kids take the driver’s seat when it comes to their goals — you sit next in the passenger seat with support asking them along the way, “Is there anything you need from me?” and continually acknowledge your teen for every step they take forward becoming more and more responsible for their goals.

      Thanks again, Uriah!

  5. MSV

    The hard part about connecting with my teenagers is that most times I’m not sure they are even listening. Sometimes it’s also hard to get them talking so it’s like having a one way conversation. I like your idea of creating the space to listen without interjecting our ideas or opinions which I know they really don’t want to hear. Do you have a suggestion for asking a teen about their day without getting that blank look back? Thanks for your advice.

    1. Carol Satterlee

      Hi MSV, thanks for your post and great question. You are so not alone as I have many parents ask that very question — what to do when trying to engage in conversation with a child who doesn’t want to talk. Sometimes it is all about “timing”. Teens have a lot on their minds whether we think they do or not. The evolving on our part is to take notice and perhaps change the times when we ask our kids about their days. For teens, right after school is no longer a good time. Some are more apt to open up when they are winding down from their day. Unfortunately it may be late at night when you’re ready for bed! So perhaps before you say your good nights, pop your head in his/her room and then ask… “Before I head off to bed, just wanted to see how the day has been for you?”

      Also, I so invite you to start the tip about creating space for listening without interjecting your stuff. If you have a need to say anything, I’d suggest coming from a place of pure curiosity and keep asking questions with the intent to understand and really hear your teen’s thoughts and perspectives. And again as I’ve said before, when a person feels respected — that his/her thoughts and feelings are acknowledged and empathy is felt from him/her, we create opportunities for healthy and real connections.

      Would love to hear back from you after you’ve tried these things! — Take care, Carol

  6. Jan

    I totally agree that teens have tremendous pressures around them…more than most parents believe. I love the ideas of asking if they want your opinion before you give your opinion but I think that parents need to be prepared if their teens don’t choose to follow their opinion…knowing their teens value their opinion enough to considerate it in their decisions is success in itself.

    1. Carol Satterlee

      Jan, thanks for posting. Yes, something I do ask parents to practice differently, particularly as their pre-teens are evolving to teens and teens to young adulthood is to shift towards asking them what they need from us as parents. It is a natural and necessary stage for teens to start forming their own opinions as well as question values. They are exposed to more and thus questioning and looking wider than their own circle of influence can be a healthy thing. All parent-child relationships are successful when each feel respected!

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