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Parenting challenge #1: Helping teens discover who they are

There are so many sources competing for our kids’ attention.  They have their friends, educators, social media,TV, gaming companies, advertisers, us as parents, people who want to be their friends, and the list goes on. And that´s one of the major challenges of parenting  today.

With all of these people trying to get their attention, and sometimes by any means necessary, it’s tough for our teenagerss to see and hear beyond the noise of what others want from them or what they need to do to fit into the roles that others expect from them.

This is tough for us as parents to watch. Many parents try to step in and tell the kids who to listen to and who not to listen to.  Direct them where to look and how to act and what not to do and exactly what they should do.

Moral compass

The best thing that we can do for our kids is to provide them with the values and the moral compass that they need to be able to make decisions for themselves.  We are there for them to be role models, guardians, confidants, and parents, but ultimately we want them to be able to figure out what is best for them.

The way that they make decisions is probably different than how you and I make decisions, but that is the beauty of each of us that make up this whole world. They get to choose how to fit into the world in their own unique way with their own unique voice. Isn’t that what we want for them?  Isn’t that what major challenges of parenting are all about?

They are watching us

We don’t want them to be a robot or a parrot or to have them repeating your words and not knowing if they believe the words or if they own them for themselves as their own feelings. The adolescent brain is trying to figure out who they are and separate from their parents.

We still need to be able to model the lives that we consider to be within the values that we hold dear, and they are definitely still watching us, although from a more distant position.

Parenting challenges - helping teens discover who they are

Parenting challenge #2: Navigating the hormones and emotions

Where did my sweet little child go?  Everything was going along so well and now it seems like we are going backwards in how my child operates in our family and in the world. They have become defiant, she says mean things, he stays up all night and sleeps all day and he stopped doing things that he used to like to do. “It’s like he’s a toddler again.”  Anyone else relate?

Generally, challenges of parenting are not the exact science but there is an actual scientific reason for this one.

Growing at a rapid rate

Their brains and bodies are going through extensive reorganization. Think about it. They are growing, once again, at a rapid rate, not only physically, but neurologically, and psychologically. Their personalities and character are really starting to take form but the brain is still incredibly malleable.

What this means is that it’s neuroreceptors are working overtime to figure out what is going to stick, what is noise and needs to be ignored and what is going to keep me alive and safe.

Senses and sensitivities are really heightened with all of the hormones that have also come “on-line” and are new to the body as they flow like a raging river throughout and the body hasn’t been able to figure out how all of these hormones are modulated yet within their bodies.


The time between childhood and adulthood is slippery. Sex hormones are the hormones that we think about first when we talk about hormones and the teenage body.  The sex hormones are mainly active in the limbic portion of the brain.  Do you know what else is ruled by the limbic portion of the brain? Emotions!


Emotions are one of the most challenging parenting issues. This brings a lot of the rollercoaster expression into focus, right?  It’s a double whammy going on in them. They are constantly seeking stimulation, of all kinds, but the mature decision making skills haven’t been fully formulated yet.

Their brains are not fully formed and fully functional until about the age of 25, so they still have a lot of learning to do, even though they are starting to look like and try to act like adults.  They are still kids.

Parenting challenge #3: Watching teens struggle with relationships

When kids reach the adolescent years, peer relationships take on greater priority than family relationships. This may be the first time that kids are really paying attention to what other kids think, watch how they act and notice who the “cool kids” are and who the “not cool” kids are.

It’s one of the fundamental human needs to feel as though you belong. I’m going to make a generalization here, but hear me out because this rings true in the VAST majority of teen homes.

Testing the limits

Within the family, the kids know the family values and are wanting to test their limits and boundaries to see what could possibly exist outside of their known world.  They are testing “the grass is greener” theory even if they don’t fully perceive all of the moving parts of what’s on the other side.  Those are serious challenges faced by parents.

Feelings get hurt

It’s a time of exploration, adventure, natural chemicals and hormones are surging through their bodies and brains.  Kids are trying to figure out who they are or who they want to be.  Since there is a shifting foundation of personality and insecurities, teens often do things and they don’t always think through the ramifications or consequences of their actions.  This is when feelings often get hurt.

Be there to listen

People do and say things that test the limits of friendships and boundaries. These experiences can be very confusing and often very traumatic. The best thing that we can do for our kids is just to be there for them to listen.  We don’t have to step in, unless there are dangerous situations.  Just simply be there for them to listen, without judging and many times holding your tongue.

Of course I leave it up to you to check in with your intuition for what your child needs, but err on the side of a silent confidant.


Parenting challenge #4: Letting teens fail and dealing with natural consequences

Speaking of learning, since we now know that the brain doesn’t fully form until they are around 25, there are things that they will learn the easy way, and plenty that they will still have to learn the hard way.

They are going to make mistakes.  They are going to forget their cleats or musical instruments or not study for a test.  There are natural consequences for their choices and those are important lessons for our kids to learn.  Those lessons are typically embedded into their memories for a long time.

Failing is ok

There are also logical consequences, such as getting grounded for breaking curfew, or screen or phone limits based on some violation to a previously agreed upon boundary. It’s all good and to be expected.  Failing is a part of life.  Thomas Edison and Elon Musk, just to name two failed WAY more than they succeeded.


Remind your kids that if they aren’t failing then they aren’t expanding and pushing themselves enough. Those may be common parenting challenges but remind yourself that major challenges of parenting take time to overcome and are not the exact science.

Failure is good if you learn something from the mistakes.  The other point to remember to tell them is that you will love them no matter what mistakes they make.  Unconditional love is blind to failure, mistakes and “not so great” choices.

Parenting challenges - letting teens fail

Parenting challenge #5: Letting go

We, as parents, need to remember that the only thing that remains constant is change. With that in mind, a true gift that we can give to ourselves and to our kids, and everyone else in the world for that matter, is patience and compassion.

I am not naive enough to think that this is easy and that we won’t all be tested greatly to see if we can stay in that mindset, but if we can anchor ourselves back into patience and compassion, things tend to work out exactly how they are supposed to.

Unconditional love

Our kids are going to make mistakes, they are going to skin their knees, they are going to have heartbreaks. It’s all part of growing up and will shape them into the people that they are meant to be.

The greatest gift that we can give them is to face all parenting challenges so that they know that they are loved unconditionally, through all of it. That they have a safe place in you, a confidant in you and a strong parent in you, whenever they need you.