Keep Calm and Parent On: Teen Edition

Posted by Shanda Gunter, Care Pastor, on Apr 24, 2022

Keep Calm and Parent On: Teen Edition

Teenagers…am I right?! Being a teenager is hard, and sometimes parenting a teenager is even harder. As a parent of a teen, you may look back at your own youthful years and feel newfound empathy for your parents. But why, exactly, is parenting teens so hard? Is there a way to make it easier on ourselves, and them?

Let me start with upfront honesty. I am a parent of young children and haven’t quite made it to the “raising teens” stage of life. However, I do work closely with teens—more specifically, teens who are hurting or are going through a difficult season—through a ministry called "The Harbor" at Chase Oaks. So I know teens pretty well.

Overwhelmingly, I hear teens say the following statements: “I feel like my parents don’t get me.” “I feel like my parents don’t understand me.” “I feel like my parents don’t listen to me.” Sound familiar? I know I said each of these statements when I was a teenager, and I meant them. I felt misunderstood, unheard, and at times, like I was an inconvenience. How can we as a new generation of parents do better?

In his book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” Stephen Covey says, "Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” Covey then tells us that we should “seek first to understand, then to be understood.”


So, the first and most important thing we can do as parents of teens is to listen. Listening is a learned skill; as parents, it’s our job to lead and show our kids how to do it by modeling it ourselves. Our kids may be moving quickly toward young adulthood, but they still learn by example. Hopefully they have seen you listen well since they were young, but it's never too late to start.

For example, we need to give our children space to share as we sit patiently and quietly. Don’t scroll through your email or watch tv while your teen is talking to you. Instead, turn to them, look them in the eyes, and give them your full attention. We can communicate we are actively listening by offering only mild/minor interjections, like saying “I see” or “I understand.” Or we can simply nod so they know we are engaged in what they are sharing.

Clarify Instead of React

While they are speaking you can also ask clarifying questions like, “So what I hear you saying is this _____. Is that correct?” When you can repeat their words back to them, it shows them that you are in fact listening and engaged in what they are saying…and not thinking about what you are going to say next.

One of the hardest things about listening is to fight the temptation to immediately respond to what is being said. But asking direct questions, arguing with what is being said, or disputing facts will discourage further sharing. You can come back around the facts later.

If a teen has decided to open up to you, they need to be heard in that moment. So concentrate fully on what is being said and how your teen feels. You may not fully agree with everything they say. You may even catch yourself thinking, "The world is in trouble with these young people." But if we can stop and hear what they have to say, it builds trust and can help us understand them better. Teens long for empathetic listening.

Be a Student

As you listen, I also urge you to be a student of your teen’s mental health. If your teen comes to you and tells you that they think they may be depressed, or that they are struggling with anxiety, stress, or the general pressures of life, listen. If they share something bigger like thoughts of wanting to harm themselves, listen. Listen to them. Take it seriously.

People give Gen Z a hard time, but I have to say that I’m so proud of this generation of students who have the courage to raise their hands and ask for help. Comments like those above aren’t just typical moody teenager behavior. They are a cry for help. It’s better to spend the money on a co-pay or counseling than to be wrong—and to find out the hard way that it wasn’t just “moody teenage behavior”.

Feeling heard leads to feeling understood, and feeling understood leads to connection. And building deep connection leads to trust.

I also encourage you to find out your teen’s love language and language of apology. You can take online quizzes together to help you understand how to show love and how to say “I’m sorry” in a way that they will hear and receive.

(Sharing YOUR love and apology languages with your teen will be helpful, too! How many times do you feel unappreciated or like they gave you a half-hearted apology? It may not be disrespect or lack of care; you just might not be speaking each other’s languages! If you take the time to do this, it will change your relationship.)

Here are a few additional resources:

  • “When Sorry Isn’t Enough” by Gary Chapman
  • “A Teen's Guide to the 5 Love Languages: How to Understand Yourself and Improve All Your Relationships” by Gary Chapman
  • “The 5 Love Languages of Teenagers: The Secret to Loving Teens Effectively” by Gary Chapman

Explore Interests

Finally, look for points of connection and do things that interest your teen. What are they into? Is there something you can do together that they would enjoy (and wouldn’t feel like torture for you)? Maybe it’s going to an arcade like the one in downtown McKinney or going watch a band perform that your teen loves. Make memories with them. This quality time helps build trust.

If you can listen to your teen and spend time with them engaging in their interests, it will take your connection to another level. In the process, you will teach them how to interact with others, how to effectively communicate, and how to show respect. That will make all the difference to helping you and your teen make the most of this unique parenting stage.

Share This:

Recent Stories

Swipe to Discover more

Merry and Melancholy: How to Find Joy after Loss

Dec 05, 2023

For many, this Christmas is tinged with loss. How can we move toward joy while being honest about our sadness? Read some practical tips from someone who has walked the journey of grief.

10 Favorite Family Christmas Movies (with Bonus Holiday Snack Recipes)

Dec 01, 2023

The holidays are here! Gather your loved ones and celebrate with 10 of the best family Christmas movies (and some delicious homemade popcorn and hot cocoa recipes).

The History of Santa Claus: From Man of Faith to Christmas Symbol

Nov 24, 2023

What's the history behind Santa Claus, beloved Christmas symbol? Read more about Old St. Nick's journey from real-life person of faith to holiday icon, here.

What Is Advent?

Nov 22, 2023

Holiday traditions anchor us as they bring cheer into our homes. Explore the centuries-old tradition of Advent and how it can enrich your own Christmas celebration.

Five Free Christmas Light Displays in DFW for 2023

Nov 18, 2023

Looking to brighten up your holiday mood? Learn the history behind those twinkling Christmas lights, and to find some of the best free neighborhood displays around town.

Meet Tracy Parlin, Director of the Local Good Pantry

Nov 15, 2023

Get to know Tracy Parlin, the Director of the new Local Good Pantry in Richardson.

Sensory-friendly DFW Holiday Events for 2023

Nov 15, 2023

Looking for some fun, sensory-friendly holiday happenings in DFW this year? We've found some great events to enjoy with friends and loved ones in 2023.


Nov 13, 2023

What do we do when the "happiest" time of the year isn't that happy, or when the things we yearn and strive for still leave us unsatisfied?

Seven Family-Friendly DFW Christmas Events for 2023

Nov 05, 2023

It's Christmas time! Find a list of seven family-friendly holiday events happening around DFW in 2023.

4 Key #HolidayGoals for the Holiday Season

Oct 27, 2023

The holidays are almost here! Don't let them pass by in a blur; use these 4 key goals to help yourself and loved ones make the most of this special season.