Ah, the teenage years. 

Without saying more than that, every teen parent reading this blog post felt exactly what that phrase meant on a soul level. Every phase in a kid’s life has its challenges, but the years your kid is in high school will test every bit of patience you have in you. 

But this phase is not only overwhelming for you, but for your teenager too. Once your kid enters high school, they start developing a sense of purpose—one they will likely use to navigate their future direction. This sense of purpose will guide them as they choose their community, the things they value, and what they choose to pursue. Talk about a big deal, right?

Behind it all, your teenager is asking a certain question right now, and it’s up to you to use your influence in the right way to answer those questions in the most loving and patient ways.  

Ninth graders start high school asking this critical question: “Where do I belong?” The answer may determine the direction of the next four years for them. Freshmen are looking for a new tribe, a place to belong. Maybe they’ll find a group that has similar interests, maybe they’ll gain some new interests and find a group that way. No one knows what will happen. So, what do they need to hear from you? They need to hear they are accepted no matter what. You can put your words into action by being the chauffeur to all of their extracurricular activities and opening your home to their friends. 

Once your kid becomes a sophomore, they become keen on challenging limits. While this may seem rebellious, at the heart of it, your tenth grader is asking, “Why should I believe?” and “Why can’t I?” It may not feel so great being on the opposing side of their questions, but trust us, it’s a good thing. This is a time when they’re defining and clarifying their values. So, listen carefully to them and encourage their questions with phrases like, “I’m listening,” “I trust you,” ”I am for you,” and, “I love you no matter what.”  

When junior year rolls around, your teenager is ready to take action. They want to lead something. They want to be a part of something bigger than themselves. The question they’re asking in this phase is: “How can I matter?” You can answer this question by leaning into their desire to lead and make choices for themselves. Give them responsibility on a consistent basis, step back, and watch how they handle the situation they’re in. 

In the final phase of parenting a school-age kid, the question being asked by high school seniors is: “What will I do?” It’s pretty scary to be a senior, if you think about it. They’re about to head off alone into a world they’ve been hearing so much about for their whole lives, and that realization can be daunting. During this time of transition, your teenager needs to hear, “I love you today,” “We can handle tomorrow,” and “Let’s think together about your best next step.”

Looking for more information about the specific phase your kid is in? Check out the Parenting Your . . . book series in the Parent Cue store.