PARENTING TEENS (ages 12 to 18)

Do you have a teen?  Congratulations!

As our kids approach the teen years, we frequently hear warnings like “enjoy your hair color now, because you’ll be gray before your kid leaves for college.”  Well, guess what?   The strife of the teen years is neither inevitable nor normal.  The teen years are just a continuation of your journey with your child.  If you already enjoy a strong rapport and mutual respect with your teenager, then these years will be smooth sailing.

Just as in every other stage of development, in the teen years you need to know what to expect, what your teen needs in order to thrive, and how you can cooperate with God in making that happen.  Dr. Gregory and Lisa Popcak write explain in their Catholic parenting book, Parenting with Grace, that the primary goals for our children during their teen years are:

  • The search for identity,
  • Developing a respectful separation from mom and dad,
  • Fostering their own spirituality, and
  • Dealing with sexual issues.

We need to ensure our teens have both the guidance and the freedom they need explore these goals and to respond to God’s unique call for their lives.   spirituality

There’s a necessary tension in parenting the teen.  We need to let go, but still hold on just enough to ensure the teen is more attached to us (his parents) than to his peers.  In his groundbreaking book Hold On to Your Kids, Dr. Gordon Neufeld explores the danger of believing our culture’s message that it’s normal for a teen to become primarily identified with his peers, to find his identity and values in his peer culture.  The teen’s parents must remain the go-to people for his sense of meaning even while he’s spreading his wings and defining himself apart from his parents.




Parenting With Grace by Dr. Gregory Popcak (a Catholic father).  A rare attachment parenting book that actually addresses the teen years.  This book is beautifully organized and easy to follow.

Hold On to Your Kids by Gordon Neufeld.  We need to let go as our kids get older, but this book explains why the family still needs to remain the primary attachment even for teens.  This book is essential reading for every parent of a teen!  I was so impressed by this book that I bought several copies and give them out to friends.

Brainstorm: The Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain by Daniel Siegal. Explains how brain development influences teen behavior and decision making.

The Successful Child by Dr. William Sears.  This book will challenge and enlighten your definition of success, and will help you see the payoff of attachment-based and gentle parenting through the childhood and teen years.

Real Love by MaryBeth Bonacci.  A book for the teen; dating & sexuality questions answered.

Beyond the Birds and the Bees by Dr. Gregory Popcak.  A book for parents to read; how to nurture healthy sexuality in your children from birth through the teen years.

All Things Guy: A Guide to Becoming a Man that Matters by Cheryl Dikow.  Male identity and his search for God.  My son enjoyed this book.  It’s aimed at “tweens” but suitable for older teens as well.

All Things Girl by Teresa Tomeo.  There are several good books in this series on feminine identity, dating, and sexuality.

CAPC Articles:

Teens: Signs of Healthy Independence by Kim Cameron-Smith.

Be Not Afraid by Charisse Tierney.  Sex education Catholic style!

3 Secrets Every Parent Should Know about Teenagers by Kim Cameron-Smith

Little Leavings by Kim Cameron-Smith.  Kim reflects on her teen son’s initial movement from the nest.

Photo credits (photos.com): Jeff Gynane (stepping stones); Stockbyte (girl at Mass)