Positive Parenting Tips: Adolescence (15–17 years old)

Key points

  • As a parent you give your children a good start in life—you nurture, protect and guide them.
  • Learn about developmental milestones, including emotional and social changes, for children who are 15 to 17 years old.
  • Help your child with positive parenting tips, which include topics such as child safety and healthy bodies.
Older teen boy smiling

Developmental milestones

This is a time of changes for how teenagers think, feel, and interact with others, and how their bodies grow. Most girls will be physically mature by now, and most will have completed puberty. Boys might still be maturing physically during this time. Your teen might have concerns about their body size, shape, or weight. Eating disorders also can be common, especially among girls. During this time, your teen is developing their unique personality and opinions. Relationships with friends are still important, yet your teen will have other interests as they develop a more clear sense of who they are. This is also an important time to prepare for more independence and responsibility; many teenagers start working, and many will be leaving home soon after high school.

Here is some information on how teens develop:

Emotional/social changes

Children in this age group might:

  • Have more interest in romantic relationships and sexuality.
  • Go through less conflict with parents.
  • Show more independence from parents.
  • Have a deeper capacity for caring and sharing and for developing more intimate relationships.
  • Spend less time with parents and more time with friends.
  • Feel a lot of sadness or depression, which can lead to poor grades at school, alcohol or drug use, unsafe sex, and other problems.

Thinking and learning

Children in this age group might:

  • Learn more defined work habits.
  • Show more concern about future school and work plans.
  • Be better able to give reasons for their own choices, including about what is right or wrong.

Positive parenting tips

Following are some things you, as a parent, can do to help your teen during this time:

  • Talk with your teen about their concerns and pay attention to any changes in their behavior. Ask them if they have had suicidal thoughts, particularly if they seem sad or depressed. Asking about suicidal thoughts will not cause them to have these thoughts, but it will let them know that you care about how they feel. Seek professional help if necessary.
  • Show interest in your teen's school and extracurricular interests and activities and encourage them to become involved in activities such as sports, music, theater, and art.
  • Encourage your teen to volunteer and become involved in civic activities in the community.
  • Compliment your teen and celebrate their efforts and accomplishments.
  • Show affection for your teen. Spend time together doing things you enjoy.
  • Respect your teen's opinion. Listen to them without playing down their concerns.
  • Encourage your teen to develop solutions to problems or conflicts. Help your teenager learn to make good decisions. Create opportunities for them to use their own judgment, and be available for advice and support.
  • If your teen engages in interactive internet media such as games, chat rooms, and instant messaging, encourage them to make good decisions about what they post and the amount of time they spend on these activities.
  • If your teen works, use the opportunity to talk about expectations, responsibilities, and other ways of behaving respectfully in a public setting.
  • Talk with your teen and help them plan ahead for difficult or uncomfortable situations. Discuss what they can do if they are in a group and someone is using drugs or under pressure to have sex, or is offered a ride by someone who has been drinking.
  • Respect your teen's need for privacy.
  • Encourage your teen to get enough sleep and exercise, and to eat healthy, balanced meals.

Safety first

You play an important role in keeping your child safe―no matter how old they are. Here are a few ways to help protect your child:

  • Talk with your teen about the dangers of driving and how to be safe on the road. You can steer them in the right direction. "Parents Are the Key" has steps that can help. Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death from unintentional injury among teens, yet few teens take measures to reduce their risk of injury.
  • Remind your teen to wear a helmet when riding a bike, motorcycle, or all-terrain vehicle. Unintentional injuries resulting from participation in sports and other activities are common.
  • Talk with your teen about suicide and pay attention to warning signs. Suicide is the third leading cause of death among youth 15 through 24 years of age.
  • Talk with your teen about the dangers of drugs, drinking, smoking, and risky sexual activity. Ask them what they know and think about these issues, and share your feelings with them. Listen to what they say and answer any questions honestly and directly.
  • Discuss with your teen the importance of choosing friends who do not act in dangerous or unhealthy ways.
  • Know where your teen is and whether a responsible adult is present. Make plans with them for when they will call you, where you can find them, and what time you expect them home.

Healthy bodies

  • Encourage your teen to be physically active. They might join a team sport or take up an individual sport. Helping with household tasks such as mowing the lawn, walking the dog, or washing the car also will keep your teen active.
  • Meal time is very important for families. Eating together helps teens make better choices about the foods they eat, promotes healthy weight, and gives your family members time to talk with each other.
  • Keep television sets out of your teen's bedroom. Set limits for screen time, including cell phones, computers, video games, and other devices, and develop a family media plan.
  • Make sure your child gets the recommended amount of sleep each night: For teenagers 13–18 years of age, this is 8–10 hours per 24 hours (including naps).

For more information

CDC's Adolescent and School Mental Health can help you learn how connection is key to good adolescent mental health.

CDC's Parent Information (Teens 12— 19) has information to help you learn how to guide your teen to be safe and become a healthy and productive adult.

CDC's Healthy Weight Information has tips and ideas for parents to help children maintain a healthy weight.

CDC's Youth Physical Activity Guidelines has information on how to help children be active and play.

CDC's BAM! Body and Mind is a website designed for kids 9 through 13 years of age to give them the information they need to make healthy lifestyle choices. The site focuses on topics that kids told us are important to them—such as stress and physical fitness—using kid-friendly lingo, games, quizzes, and other interactive features.

CDC's Information on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Youth Health has information about the physical and mental health of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth.

American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry Guide has many fact sheets for parents on child and adolescent health and development.

My Plate by The U.S. Department of Agriculture provides information on health and nutrition for teens.

AAP's Healthy Children website provides information on feeding, nutrition, and fitness for all developmental stages from infancy to young adulthood. Visit this website to learn more about emotional problems, learning disabilities and other health and development concerns.

Just in Time Parenting's site provides quality, research-based information to families at the time it can be most useful.

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has information on safety recalls and safety tips for children riding in motor vehicles, walking, biking, playing outside, waiting at school bus stops, and more.

National Institute of Mental Health has information on mental disorders affecting children and adolescents, including anxiety and depression.

StopBullying.gov provides information from various government agencies on how children, parents, educators and others in the community can prevent or stop bullying.

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) works to improve the quality and availability of substance abuse prevention, alcohol and drug addiction treatment, and mental health services.

Teens Health site for information on healthy eating for children and teenagers, safety tips for your child when you can't be there, and other important health and safety topics.