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Teenagers & Relationships with Parents

When our children are young they seem to need and rely on their parents for just about anything. However, as children age, entering adolescence and teenage years they appear to need us or even want our help even less. There is an assumption that once children become teenager families become less important, however, this assumption is completely inaccurate. Teenagers still need their parents as much as they always have, however, the types of needs a teenager has and the needs of the child he or she once was have now changed. Relationships like most other things in life must adapt to the changes of time. However, what must remain is the love in order for the relationship to continue, it must be enduring. Parental roles also change as a child ages from a young child to a teenager. Primary parental roles adjust from nurturer, unrelenting guide to that of a more equal relationship, with teenagers more responsibility and control for the decisions they make.

Almost overnight when a child enters their teenage years they begin to struggle with parents for independence. Influences are different, likes/dislikes have changed,  and priorities have been adjusted. Most teenagers are heavily influenced by people outside their family like musical artists, actors, peers, music, what to wear and other trends. Parents should view this adjustment as a right of passage, rather than a loss. Parents are encouraged to remain cognizant that this is normal progression towards adulthood and they remain an important part of their children lives. As confusing as some parents find a teenagers’ behavior he or she is just trying to exert their independence as they head closer to adulthood. As teens get older they are more likely to question directives from parents rather than simply going along with them as they had done so eagerly in the past. During one’s teenage years he or she is likely to fight for control, which may create conflict with parents and within the family. This perceived never ending conflict can leave parents feel hurt ad rejected by children that felt once adored them. 

Often expectations of the things parents want for their children and the expectations teenagers have for themselves may be quite different. Parents establish and typically maintain expectations of their children with everything from grades in school, how they behave and convey themselves to others, to how they dress, college choices and options, career choices, and future mates. Parents more so than teenagers utilize consequential thinking considering their actions in light of future consequences. Hence, the reason many parents become anxious with the increasing freedom that must be afforded to teenagers, as with freedom comes both responsibility and accountability. Parents have the capacity to help teens create a positive self-image by providing support during a time that can be very confusing to both. Wanting to protect their children from both current and future harm as well as negative consequences can cause parents to be perceived by teenagers as difficult to please or satisfy. Teenagers often perceive their parent zealous behavior to protect them as anger, which leads to feelings of rejection by some teens.

Parents should be encouraged to remember their own teenage years, how confusing that time is for most young adults. Teenagers struggle with the following changes; emotional, physical, psychological, role, and individual identity. While it may be difficult for some parents to understand the changes in their teens mood and behaviors, what still remains constant is their need for parental guidance and support. Having family support allows teens to retain a safe and secure physical and emotional base. Unlike a lot of other relationship’s, a teen may experience in his or her life parental love and support is typically all enduring and accepting, not contingent on looks, popularity, friends, physical possessions, etc. Having and maintaining a strong family base can assist teens with making the transition from a confused teenager to a confident adult.


LeCroy, C.W.,  & Daley, M.W.  (2001).  Empowering Adolescent Girls: Examining the present and building skills for the future with the go grrrls program.  New York: Norton Publishers.

Teenagers & Relationships with Parents

Tarra Bates-Duford, Ph.D., MFT

My name is Dr. Tarra Bates-Duford PhD, MFT, CRS, CMFSW, BCPC I have a PhD in forensic Psychology specializing in familial dysfunctions and traumatic experience. I work with individuals and families struggling with familial dysfunctions, trauma, rape, and incest. I also have a masters in Marriage, Couples, & Family therapy. I am a certified relationship specialist with American Psychotherapy Association (#15221). I have more than 15 years in the field of mental health, relationships, and behavioral sciences.

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APA Reference
Bates-Duford, T. (2016). Teenagers & Relationships with Parents. Psych Central. Retrieved on June 3, 2020, from


Last updated: 24 Jun 2016
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