The Powerful Influence of Parents During the Teenage Years

I was recently playing with my young children when my 5-year old asked me how something works. I don’t remember the exact question, but I can assume it had to do with technology, building Legos, or something else my mind just doesn’t want to comprehend. I responded with a smile and a “I’m not sure, but that’s a great question.” He looked at me straight faced and said, “That’s okay, I’ll ask daddy. He knows EVERYTHING!” I secretly rolled my eyes and smiled and figured that his daddy absolutely would know that answer. I realized my children are still in the developmental stage where we as parents are wearing superhero capes. We know everything in their eyes. I then sighed, as I thought about the day when they begin to believe we know nothing, and they are experts of all things.  

Many parents of adolescents enter my office feeling disconnected, removed from their teen’s life, and feel like they aren’t respected. The truth is, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Yes, we are absolutely kicked off our superhero pedestal during adolescence. This is one of the beginning stages of the journey to independence that is normal and appropriate for teenagers- the fact is the job of a parent is to raise independent adults; this is part of that journey. During this time of development, the teenager is having to come to terms with the fact that their parents are not perfect and that they really don’t “know EVERYTHING.”

Despite all of these things, the relationship with the parents is as important as ever for adolescents. In fact, parents still are one of the most influential people in a teen’s life with friends, romantic relationship, and other adults, such as coaches and teachers, all also leading the list. Research also shows that while teenagers are spending less time with parents than previous years, their social skills and self-esteem benefit from spending time with a parent (in particular spending time with fathers!). In addition, teenagers can often start bonding with one parent at a time.

While teenagers roll their eyes, slam doors, and pretend they don’t want you in their life, the truth is they really do want their parents involved. Once I really get to know an adolescent, one of the first complaints I often hear is, “I can’t talk to my parents,” or “they wouldn’t really understand.” The teenager hasn’t learned yet that their pushing their parents away, might mean the parents are unsure how to communicate. Parents, even when conversations are resistant, awkward, or very concise, don’t stop the open communication. The best thing a parent can do is to let their teenager know that they are unconditionally loved, their parents are proud of them, and that it is safe to talk about anything with their parents. Teenagers often struggle with problem solving and impulsive decision making. Subsequently, there is nothing better than having a parent help teach them better judgment and to talk through decisions in a safe, nonjudgmental, and compassionate environment.

Parents, don’t give up on your adolescents. Find out what their passions are, and try to connect. Please know that despite their eye rolling, a part of them still sees you wearing that superhero cape. You will be the first one they need in trouble, when they are sick, or heartbroken because they know they still need you. And when all else fails, know that the teenage years are just like the toddler years, they don’t last forever!

Amy Rollo is a Licensed Professional Counselor Supervisor and owner of Heights Family Counseling. Amy has been practicing for fifteen years. She has doctoral level training in the areas of child and adolescent counseling, marriage and family therapy, and adult counseling. Amy Rollo provides counseling and evaluation services in the Houston Heights and surrounding areas. Amy’s goal in counseling is to journey with her clients in order to foster positive changes and growth in their lives. Read more about Amy's counseling style by visiting www.heightsfamilycounseling.com and read more about her services http://heightsfamilycounseling.com/services-1/. To book an appointment with Amy, use our online booking, https://heightsfamilycounseling.com/contact/