Do you ever wonder how to really connect with your teenager—to help them feel seen, felt, and understood? So often parents worry about the potential pitfalls of adolescence that they lose sight of the everyday ways they make a real difference in their teen’s healthy development.
When teens feel emotionally attached to their parents, they develop internal strengths that last a lifetime. The small things we say and do that help them believe in themselves become the building blocks of their success.
Rather than being driven by fear and worry as your child becomes an adolescent, these 50 everyday ways to love teens will support their development, long-term happiness, and well-being. Please add your own ideas to the list in the comments section. There are surely hundreds more!
Small Actions that Help Teens Thrive
- Notice who they as people, not just their academic achievement.
- Celebrate their differences and special needs.
- Ask what was best about their day.
- Surprise them with a hug—just because you love them.
- Show your gratitude for their presence in your life.
- Leave an encouraging note in their backpack.
- Exercise together.
- Help them discover meaningful after-school and summer activities.
- Laugh with one another.
- Enjoy nature, beauty, and art together.
- Smile when they walk into a room.
- Welcome their friends to your home.
- Get to know their friends beyond surface conversations.
- Praise them for who they are, not just for what they do.
- Listen first. Speak last.
- Thank them for their ideas and suggestions.
- Help them critically think through decisions.
- Advise, counsel, and support them.
- Allow them to make their own choices.
- Encourage them to serve the public good.
- Believe in their abilities to overcome challenges.
- Support and encourage them as they struggle.
- When they show courage, let them know you admire them.
- When they solve a problem, help them reflect on what they learned.
- When they plan an event, congratulate them on what went well.
- Talk about real world challenges and invite their opinions on moral issues.
- Let them know it is okay to feel confused.
- Don’t judge or impose your beliefs on them. Adolescence is about figuring it out for oneself.
- Help them connect their heads with their hearts.
- Show them how to care for others by modeling empathy and compassion.
- Talk with them about your heroes and role models.
- Discover their heroes and role models.
- When you are angry and frustrated, demonstrate how to manage your feelings instead of lashing out at others.
- Teach them about being safe online – and off.
- Be a cheerleader for them when they feel down.
- Optimism is contagious. Cultivate it in your home.
- Don’t just watch movies together; discuss the messages and ideas in the stories.
- Help them see the good side of getting things wrong.
- Share the little things you notice about them that you cherish – the way they giggle, munch their food, or comb their hair.
- Thank them for their kindness.
- Embrace their adolescent awkwardness. They'll grow out of it.
- Try not to embarrass them in front of their friends – or ever.
- Allow them to see you cry.
- Help them find meaning through loss and grief.
- Talk to them about their futures; encourage curiosity about different career paths.
- Apologize when you are wrong.
- Let them know when they inspire you.
- Admit when you make a mistake and what you learned as a result.
- Be a sounding board when they need one.
- Encourage connections with adult mentors.
Marilyn Price-Mitchell, PhD, is a developmental psychologist working at the intersection of youth development, leadership, education, and civic engagement.
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©2013 Marilyn Price-Mitchell. All rights reserved. Please contact for permission to reprint.
Image Credit: Sanjay Goswami