Module 4: Promoting Mental Health in Adolescence

Father and Son TalkingFamily Relationships

A Vital Influence

Although peers become increasingly important during adolescence, the family still plays an essential role in the teen’s development. Teens continue to be deeply influenced by the values of their parents. Having a good relationship with their parents is a key factor in fostering a positive self-image. Although teens may seem to reject their parents’ guidance, they need their parents as much as ever.

Providers can help to enhance parent-teen relationships by helping parents to:

  • Give their teen an important role to play within in the family
  • Agree on mutual expectations concerning responsibilities
  • Identify areas of disagreement and conflict
  • Negotiate compromises and develop solutions acceptable to all family members

Questions to Ask

For the Teen

  • How are you getting along with your parents?
  • Do you think your family listens to you?
  • Are your family rules clear and reasonable?
  • Do you follow your family rules and limits?
  • What would you like to change about your family if you could?

For Parents

  • How are you getting along as a family?
  • How would you describe your parenting style? How do you think your style affects your teen?
  • What rules and expectations do you set for him?
  • How does he show that he understands your family values?
  • Do you feel that you understand his “world” and daily experiences?

Provider Tips

  • Describe authoritative, permissive, authoritarian, and rejecting-neglecting parenting
    Information appears in a pop up window

    Authoritative. Authoritative parenting combines love and nurturing with appropriate guidance that incorporates developmentally appropriate expectations, reasonable rules, and consistent supervision. This type of parenting has been found to be the most successful approach for developing competence and deterring problem behaviors in all developmental stages, including adolescence.

    Permissive. Permissive parenting is another less effective style of parenting. Permissive parenting may be experienced as more nurturing, but may not provide appropriate guidance.

    Authoritarian. Authoritarian parenting tends to be less nurturing and places greater emphasis on the adolescent meeting high expectations and following rules.

    Rejecting-Neglecting. Rejecting neglecting parenting does not provide the nurturing and consistency needed for healthy development.

    to parents and discuss how authoritative parenting better meets the developmental needs of teens.
  • Families may be more receptive to discussions about parenting if the provider is sensitive to the family’s values. Assess the parenting style in relation to the family’s values. Consider whether their parenting is achieving their expectations for the teen.
  • Discuss common parental concerns raised in adolescence and explain how these concerns are linked to positive adolescent development — a teen being argumentative may reflect an increased ability for abstract thought; a teen who challenges rules may be working toward increased independence.
  • Using the guidance listed below, help parents to understand their ability to positively influence their teen’s opinions and decisions.

Guidance for Teens and Parents

For the Teen

  • Stay connected with your family even though you might not always agree on everything. There will be times when you would rather be alone or with your friends, but make sure your family knows that there are also times when you would like to be with them.
  • Talking to your parents, respectfully disagreeing with them, sharing your interests and concerns, and working with them to solve problems will help your parents recognize and appreciate the person you are becoming.
  • Be sure to ask your parents for help when you need it. Sometimes it’s helpful to just talk about tasks you need to accomplish, decisions you’re trying to make, or issues you are dealing with. Your parents may have had similar experiences that they can share with you. If not, they can help you to come up with possible solutions or options.

For Parents

  • All parents and teens have “ups and downs” in their relationships with one another. It’s helpful to remember what your teen is hoping for in his relationship with you. He wants and needs to feel that:
    • He is loved and valued
    • His concerns are acknowledged
    • His feelings are considered
    • He is being heard
    • His emerging independence is respected
  • No matter how much your teen seems to resist your signs of affection, the truth is that he still wants to know that you love him. Tell him you are proud of him for the things he does well and the efforts he makes. Praise him when he is helpful and when he does something nice for someone else.
  • Keep the lines of communication open between you and your teen. Make time to talk with him every day. Be willing to answer his questions and discuss difficult or unpleasant topics if that’s what he wants. Sometimes, he will just need you to listen to him. Give him your full attention and let him know that you hear what he is saying.
  • It’s common for teens to spend time alone in their rooms. Though your teen’s need for privacy should be respected, including him in family activities is still important. Mealtimes are a good time to bring the family together to share conversation and to show interest and concern for one another. Even when your family’s schedule is busy, try to have dinner together several nights each week.
  • Continue to include your teen in family routines and traditions. If possible, do some chores together—prepare a meal, rake the leaves, wash the family car. Enjoy a family night once a week—play board games, watch TV or movies together, or have a family meeting. Celebrate holidays, birthdays, cultural events, and religious rituals as a family and give your teen a special role to play as he gets older.
Resources for Providers

Bright Futures Case Studies for Primary Care Clinicians: Young Adolescent Screening: New World, Old Worries

Issues Checklist (Abridged) PDF

Copyright Georgetown University Georgtown University Adolescence