Talking To Your Teenager: Critical Advice From A Teacher

Teaching high school students is tough. I can only imagine how difficult it is to parent them. I am in the trenches every day with young adults that range in age from 13-18. Even though I am not parenting teenagers, I have some insight to share for those that are. Here are the things your teenager needs you to talk with them about, based on the conversations they are having with their teacher.

Many teenagers do not know what it means to study. When kids are in elementary school, learning looks very different. Kids have lots of time and opportunities to practice skills. When students move to secondary education, they are required to learn lots of new content and quickly. Teach your teens how to study. 

  • Organize notes
  • Complete review sheets
  • Play online review games {Quizlet and Kahoot are popular}
  • Ask the teacher questions
  • Have a designated time and space {not watching Netflix while flipping through the Chemistry textbook} 
  • Review past assignments for specific skills
  • Read Sparknotes as a supplementary source to help deepen the understanding of literature
  • Studying can and should occur long before the test

teen girl studyingLife after graduation is a topic that comes up often. Think about it. Teenagers are trying to figure out what they want to do for the rest of their lives. They want you involved. They want to talk about these tricky circumstances with you. Parents should be having ongoing conversations about careers and trying to provide opportunities to speak with people that work in their field of interest.

  • What college are you interested in?
    • Do you know the requirements to be admitted?
    • Would you like to visit the campus?
    • Does that university offer your degree program?
  • If they have to pay for their own education, discuss what that looks like:
    • How do you pay back loans?
    • How long will you have that debt? 
  • What does it mean to work an apprenticeship?
    • What are the benefits?

Personal relationships are where they need the most guidance. Friendships are changing as teenagers learn what kinds of traits they value in their friends. Many of them want to stand firm in their beliefs and moral code, but the peer pressure is relentless. Dating is new for them and there are so many circumstances that pop up, warranting guidance from parents.

  • Discuss how to get out of bad relationships. Give them exit strategies. I see so many kids stay in unhealthy/uncomfortable relationships because they don’t know how to leave.
  • Talk to them about respect and healthy relationships. The phrase I say the most is, “if they love you, they wouldn’t make you cry.” 
  • Pay attention to their social media activity. I do not pretend to understand all of the sources out there. But I do know that it is the way teens communicate. It causes them so much happiness and angst.
  • Get to know their friends. Allow them to tag along. Let them have friends over. Give them a safe place to be teenagers. 

teen boys hanging outRemember to still include them. I know that teenagers are becoming more independent and spend more time with friends, but they still long to spend time with their parents and siblings. Respect their space, but let them know they are wanted.

  • Eat meals as a family as much as you can. Schedules get busy, but students tell me all of the time that they eat dinner alone. They don’t seem to enjoy it.
  • Continue with all of the cheesy family traditions. Matching Christmas jammies? Sure! And don’t forget your teenager. Just because they will sulk in the family picture doesn’t mean they want to be left out. 

Check-in with your teenagers. They need guidance. The waters they are navigating are rough and they sometimes need you to throw them the life preserver. 


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Courtney lives in Grand Blanc. She's married to Matt, and they have two very smart, energetic, and involved kids, Walker and Tenley. Courtney is a working mom who spends her days teaching High School Biology and English. She thrives on being busy, but also struggles with finding a good balance. She loves working with people, but definitely is inspired when she is interacting with young people. In her free time....just kidding she doesn't have free time, but she does love to go to concerts and catch up with friends and family. Favorite things include Michigan football, college basketball, scented candles, any beach, campfires, traveling and spontaneous dance parties.