Navigation Link

Child Development & Parenting:Adolescence (12-24)

Adolescent Parenting Introduction

group of teens

From parents' perspectives, adolescence could quite possibly be the most nerve-wracking developmental period in their children's lives. It is natural for parents to feel anxious when their teens learn to drive a car; begin to form romantic and sexual relationships; decide to get tattoos and body piercings; and flirt with danger by experimenting with alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs. Despite these perils, adolescence is also a period of great pride and satisfaction for parents as they begin to recognize that their years of hard work, commitment, and personal sacrifice have paid off. Their once dependent children gradually become independent and responsible adults. Along the way there are significant landmarks such as their teen getting a first job; choosing a career or trade; moving out to live on their own; and developing a rewarding social network.

The adolescent developmental period is a lengthy period of transition spanning the ages of 12-24 years. During adolescence a m...More

Fast Facts: Learn! Fast!

What are the nutritional requirements in adolescence?

  • Despite the abundant supply of food in the United States, most adolescents do not receive adequate nutrition at a time when their bodies' growth and development is accelerating.
  • In general, adolescent diets include too much fat, sugar, caffeine, and sodium and not enough nutrient-dense foods such as fresh fruits and vegetables and calcium-rich foods such as dairy products.
  • Sedentary 12-year-old males need about 1800 calories each day. This peaks at 2600 calories around age 19-20 years old and then decreases to 2400 calories a day from ages 21 through 24 years.
  • Sedentary teen girls around the ages of 12-13 years need about 1600 calories per day, and their daily calorie requirement reaches the highest level around age 19 years at 2000 calories.
  • Not only do adolescents need to eat the right amount of food, but they also need to eat foods which contain the right type of nutrients, and in the right proportions.
  • There are four key methods parents can use to assist their youth to develop healthy eating habits: 1) provide nutritional information, 2) provide opportunities to practice making healthy choices,3) model healthy eating habits, and 4) ensure the availability of quick, convenient, nutrient-rich snacks.
  • Nutritional problems can still arise or worsen during adolescence including problems of overeating and/or consistently making poor food choices, resulting in obesity; developing problems with unhealthy and extremely restrictive dieting without meeting the minimum nutritional requirements necessary for healthy growth and development; and Diabetes.

For more information

What are the physical activity requirements in adolescence?

  • It is important for adolescents to develop habits that incorporate regular physical activity into their daily lives so that these habits are carried into adulthood.
  • It can be difficult for youth to get sufficient exercise due to the increased popularity of sedentary entertainment (television, video games, etc.) and a decrease in physical education opportunities at school.
  • Any physical activity that requires the body to move enables youth to reap the health benefits of exercise.
  • Many youth enjoy playing organized, competitive sports such as basketball, cheerleading, baseball, gymnastics, football, golf, tennis, soccer, lacrosse, track and field, etc.
  • Youth can also receive the benefits of exercise by participating in regular physical activity through informal and unstructured activities, such as gardening, shooting hoops in the driveway, dancing in their bedroom with their friends, riding bicycles around the neighborhood, skateboarding at the skate park, walking the dog after dinner, or hiking on a trail in the woods.
  • Parents need to be informed about the training methods used by their children's coaches and trainers, and ensure their teens take certain precautions to prevent sports-related injuries.
  • Youth should be spending at least one hour a day, most days of every week, engaged in some form of physical activity.
  • The best way parents can encourage their teens' participation in regular physical activity is by modeling this behavior themselves.
  • Parents can also help their children by assisting them to find physical activities that match their children's interests and talents.

For more information 

How important is sleep in adolescence?

  • Adolescents need an average 8.5 to 9.25 hours of sleep every night just to function.
  • Teens' bodies' natural sleep rhythms (called circadian rhythms) shift during adolescence causing them to remain alert and awake later in the night, with a corresponding desire to sleep later in the day.
  • Parents can help teens to identify and limit caffeinated beverages in the evening.
  • Teens should establish regular sleep and wake times that allow for an adequate amount of sleep each night.
  • Teens will also benefit from developing and maintaining a consistent bedtime routine.
  • Beyond bedtimes and bedtime routines, youth should learn to structure their time so that important activities do not detain them from getting to bed on time.
  • It is best to avoid strenuous exercise like running, aerobics, weight lifting, or playing basketball right before bed, as these types of activities will release hormones into the body that cause people to feel more awake and alert.
  • Anxiety and worry are great sleep disrupters and prevent youth from feeling sleepy.
  • Chronic sleep disturbance (sleeping too much or sleeping too little) can be a symptom of a more serious problem such a depressive disorder, or drug and alcohol use.

For more information

What topics might parents and adolescents disagree about or need to discuss?

For more information

What healthcare is important during adolescence?

  • Adolescents will need to learn to manage their own healthcare and should be developing a healthy lifestyle that will be maintained throughout their adult lives.
  • Parents will want to ensure their youth continue to receive routine, annual physical examinations.
  • Annual physicals are the perfect time to make sure that youth are caught up on their vaccinations.
  • It's also important that youth also receive routine dental and vision check-ups.
  • Annual physical exams should also be screening adolescents for behavioral health concerns such as depression; anxiety; or possible problems with tobacco, alcohol, and other drugs.
  • Parents have an important role in identifying the early warning signs of a behavioral or emotional problem because they regularly observe their teens' behavioral and emotional patterns.
  • Parents should be on the look-out for possible warning signs that their child may be at risk for suicide.
  • All adolescents who are sexually active should get regularly tested for sexually transmitted infections including but not limited to HIV/AIDS, syphilis, gonorrhea, Chlamydia, and Hepatitis B.
  • They key to empowering youth to independently manage their own healthcare is to gradually give youth more and more control over their healthcare, while teaching them the skills they need for self-care.

For more information

What discipline, love and guidance is necessary during adolescence?

  • One of the difficulties of raising teenage children is achieving the right balance between love and discipline; liberties and limitations; and, independence and responsibility.
  • Parents should help children to become resilient, which means that they have the ability to "bounce back" or to readily recover from painful, stressful, and difficult experiences.
  • One thing parents can do to build resilience is to provide the proper amount of support and guidance.
  • When parents are overly protective to the point of being smothering, or provide too much direction without letting youth work out some problems on their own, they rob youth of the opportunity to develop and practice independent problem-solving skills.
  • Youth should have an understanding of what privileges are available to them for following the rules and meeting expectations, and what consequences will occur when they fail to follow the rules, or make poor choices.
  • Parents can begin to help adolescents develop time management skills by having high (but attainable) expectations for school achievement, household chores, and other important activities.
  • Family rules should also establish clear expectations about the responsibilities of family members toward each other.
  • If parents become aware of activities or rules at another child\'s home that they do not agree with, they should calmly discuss their concerns with the parents of the other child.
  • Parents need to express clear rules and expectations around teen substance use.
  • By late adolescence (18 years of age and older), parents need to set clear boundaries about any assistance they will (or won't) provide while their children are becoming independent adults.

For more information

How can parents protect an adolescent's health and safety?

  • Parents must be fully aware of the risks and dangers associated with tobacco, alcohol, and other drugs
  • While parents cannot completely prevent their children's eventual exposure to alcohol and other drugs, there are steps parents can take to reduce the potential risks.
  • Parents will want to ensure their youth learn to drive safely and always use good judgment when operating a motor vehicle.
  • There are several warning signs parents should pay attention to that could indicate that their adolescent may be a victim of dating violence.
  • If parents are concerned about their teens' involvement with fighting or gang activity, they can do several things.
  • Teens can encounter all types of violence online, including violent videos, hate messages on blogs and in chat rooms, and violent computer games. Youth who are curious about sex can find plenty of pornography on the Internet, some of which depicts sexual acts coupled with violence.
  • Bullying is the repeated abuse, hostility, aggression, manipulation, or violence between two youth where one youth possesses greater power than the other.
  • Parents can ensure their children's continued safety by providing education about making their new dorm, apartment, or home the safest it can be.
  • Youth also need to make sure they know how to protect themselves while they are traveling in public places.

For more information

News Articles

  • After Concussion, Are Legs at Risk, Too?

    Young athletes with a history of concussions may be at increased risk for leg injuries, preliminary research suggests. More...

  • U.S. Teens Embracing Alternative Meds. Is That a Healthy Trend?

    Alternative medicines -- such as herbal products and so-called nutraceuticals -- have soared in popularity among American youth, a new report shows. More...

  • Today's Sleepy Teens May Be Tomorrow's Heart Patients

    Most kids don't get enough sleep, and that may put them on a path to future heart trouble, a new study finds. More...

  • Sex, Drugs Hold Less Allure for Today's High Schoolers

    Today's teens are a much tamer lot, a new U.S. government survey finds. More...

  • Urban Violence Has Wide-Ranging Impact on Schools

    The effects of neighborhood violence can seep into schools and lead to lower grades, even among students who have no direct exposure to the violence, a new study reveals. More...

  • 45 More
    • Girls, Young Women Fall Short on Exercise: Study

      Many teens and young adults in the United States -- particularly women and girls -- are physically inactive, a new study reveals. More...

    • Fewer U.S. Kids Use Tobacco, But Numbers Still Too High: Officials

      The number of U.S. middle and high school students who use tobacco fell from 4.5 million in 2011 to 3.6 million in 2017, but that number is still far too high, federal health officials reported Thursday. More...

    • More Teens Than Ever Would Try Marijuana

      One in four U.S. high school seniors would try marijuana or use it more often if it was legal, a new survey finds. More...

    • High Schoolers on Heroin Abuse Other Drugs, Too

      High school seniors hooked on heroin are likely to misuse a multitude of other drugs, a new study finds. More...

    • Many High School Pitchers Suffer Pain as Pitch Counts Mount

      The new baseball season could bring pain to lots of younger players in America. More...

    • More Teens Dying, With Drugs and Violence to Blame

      A perfect storm of murder, addiction and carelessness has fueled a recent and troubling increase in deaths among U.S. children and teens, a new government report shows. More...

    • Asthmatic Teens Even More Likely to Vape Than Those Without the Illness

      Perhaps assuming that e-cigarettes are "safer" than tobacco, teens with asthma now vape at higher rates than those without the respiratory condition, new research shows. More...

    • Pot Replacing Tobacco, Booze as Teens' Drug of Choice

      Pot is increasingly replacing cigarettes and alcohol as the first drug of choice among young Americans, researchers have found. More...

    • No Link Between HPV Vaccine, Autoimmune Diseases: Study

      Immunizing girls against human papillomavirus (HPV) doesn't increase their risk for autoimmune diseases, according to new research from Canada. More...

    • Summer Camp Bummer: Smartphones, Not Bugs

      Along with flashlights, sleeping bags and bug repellent, many kids will take a smartphone to camp this summer. But this could ruin their camp experience, a new study suggests. More...

    • Boys' Early Pot Use Linked to Adult Drug Abuse

      Boys who start smoking pot before they are 15 years old are more likely to have a drug problem when they're adults than those who don't start until they are a few years older. More...

    • Hookahs Hooking Lots of Young Adults on Tobacco

      While much attention has been paid to the dangers of e-cigarette use among teens, new research shows that more than half of all tobacco smoked by young people comes from hookahs. More...

    • Medical Marijuana Ads May Spur Teen Pot Use

      Teens who watch more medical marijuana ads are more likely to smoke pot themselves, new research indicates. More...

    • Take Time Out Now for School Sports Physicals

      Most states require school athletes to have a sports physical, and now is the time to book it, doctors say. More...

    • Parents More Lenient If PG-13 Movie Violence 'Justified'

      Parents are more likely to let their kids see violent PG-13 movies if they feel the mayhem is "justified," a new study suggests. More...

    • Emotion Regulation Program Cuts Risky Sex Behaviors in Youth

      An emotion regulation intervention reduced sexual risk behaviors among at-risk middle school students, according to a study published online May 10 in Pediatrics. More...

    • Hostile Teachers Take the Joy Out of Learning

      Teacher hostility can dampen students' desire to learn and harm their grades. More...

    • Teen Sexting Often Tied to Past Sexual Abuse

      Teens who share sexually explicit texts or emails -- "sexters" -- are more likely to have suffered sexual abuse than their peers, new survey results suggest. More...

    • Teen Sexting Linked to Intimate Partner Violence, Sexual Abuse

      Teen sexting is associated with sexual abuse, with higher victimization in girls and intimate partner violence perpetration in boys, according to a study presented at the annual meeting of the Pediatric Academic Societies, held from May 5 to 8 in Toronto. More...

    • Many Teens Switch From Hi-Cal Sodas to Hi-Cal Sports Drinks

      Teens who were once hooked on sugary sodas may now be now turning to sugary sports drinks, a new study reveals. More...

    • Teens, Parents Aren't on Same Page When Talk Turns to Sex

      When it comes to having "the talk," many teens admit they're not communicating with their parents or their doctors about sex, new research reveals. More...

    • Health Tip: When Your Child Graduates High School

      Graduating from high school is a milestone that includes some emotional stress for you and your child. More...

    • Teens Willing to 'Cash In' on Curbing Cellphone Use While Driving

      But new research suggests that financial incentives and other measures might help to dissuade young drivers from texting while driving. More...

    • Family-Based Treatment of Teen Eating Disorders Helpful

      Treatment outcomes for adolescents with eating disorders seem to correlate with family reports of perceived helpfulness of the family-based treatment approach, according to a study published online April 10 in the International Journal of Eating Disorders. More...

    • College Kids May Be Learning, Even When Checking Smartphones

      Social media use in college classrooms is generally frowned upon. But new research suggests it's possible to check posts and tweets -- and still absorb the lecture material. More...

    • FDA Cracks Down on Youth Access to Juul E-Cigarettes

      A crackdown on the sale of the wildly popular Juul brand of electronic cigarettes to teens was announced Tuesday by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. More...

    • Factors ID'd to Predict Fatty Liver in Obese Teens

      Ethnicity/race, markers of insulin resistance, and genetic factors might help identify obese youth at risk for developing fatty liver, according to a study published online April 17 in Hepatology. More...

    • Could Vaping Lead Teens to Pot Smoking?

      Teens who use e-cigarettes may be more likely to try marijuana in the future, especially if they start vaping at a younger age, a new study shows. More...

    • Teens Who Cook Set the Table for Healthy Eating as Adults

      Teach teens to cook, and they will eat better as adults. More...

    • Disordered Eating Among Teens Tied to Future Depression

      Disordered eating behavior among adolescents is associated with a significantly increased risk of future depressive symptoms and being bullied by peers, according to a study published online April 11 in JAMA Psychiatry. More...

    • Many Teens Don't Know Juul Contains Addictive Nicotine

      Many young Americans don't realize that the wildly popular Juul electronic cigarettes contain highly addictive nicotine, putting them at risk for future cigarette use, a new study shows. More...

    • Does Pot Really Dull a Teen's Brain?

      Pot-smoking teens may not be dooming themselves to a destiny of dim-wittedness, a new review suggests. More...

    • Parents Favor Supporting Pregnant Teens, Their Babies

      Most U.S. adults feel that supporting pregnant teens is a good investment in the baby's health, according to a report published by C.S. Mott Children's Hospital. More...

    • A College Student's Guide to Avoiding Burnout

      Juggling classes, jobs and extracurricular activities can lead to big-time burnout in college, but knowing its signs can help savvy students avoid it, one psychologist says. More...

    • The Traits That Hike High School Dropout Risk

      The reasons students quit high school are complex, but aggression and weak study skills are two key factors, a new study finds. More...

    • Many Parents Unsure of Talking About Sex With LGBT Kids

      Many parents of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) teens feel uneasy and uninformed when it comes to talking to them about sex and dating, a new study shows. More...

    • Tiny Juul Device Getting U.S. Teens Hooked on Vaping

      Tiny e-cigarette devices that look like USB drives are making it tough for parents and educators to keep their kids from vaping. More...

    • Loopholes May Lead Young Facebook Users to Tobacco Products

      Facebook needs to close loopholes on its measures to keep kids away from tobacco, a new study suggests. More...

    • Poor College Grades? Maybe Your Class Schedule Is to Blame

      A mismatch between a college student's class schedule and natural body clock can cause a type of "jet lag" and worse grades, a new study reports. More...

    • Receptivity to Tobacco Ads Linked to Progression to Use

      For adolescents, receptivity to tobacco advertising is associated with progression toward use, according to a study published online March 26 in JAMA Pediatrics. More...

    • E-Cig Ads May Prompt Teens to Take Up Tobacco Too

      American teens and young adults who are receptive to ads for electronic cigarettes are much more likely to start smoking tobacco cigarettes, a new study finds. More...

    • Early Social Media Use May Harm Teen Girls' Well-Being

      High levels of social media interaction in early adolescence may have negative implications for later well-being and happiness in girls, according to a study published online March 20 in BMC Public Health. More...

    • Many Doctors Don't Push HPV Shots Equally. See Who's Left Out

      Teen boys in the United States are less likely than girls to be vaccinated against human papillomavirus (HPV) because many doctors don't recommend the shots to boys' parents, researchers say. More...

    • Neural Markers of Depression Resilience ID'd in Female Teens

      Adolescent females at high familial risk of depression who do not go on to develop depression have compensatory functional connectivity patterns in emotion regulatory networks, according to a study published online March 21 in JAMA Psychiatry. More...

    • AHA: Weight-Loss Surgery Helps the Hearts of Very Obese Teens, Too

      Bariatric surgery in severely obese teenagers could lower their risk of heart attack and stroke by about 40 to 50 percent -- and could maintain that lower risk for at least five years, a new study shows. More...