5 Ways to Help Your Kids Transition into Teens

There’s no doubt that the teen years are among the most challenging years your kid will face. Their body will change in ways they may not want or fully understand. They’ll have mood swings and insecurities. Schoolwork gets more difficult, and grades matter more as transcripts talk becomes more common. On top of all of this change, your kid will start to notice that their friendships are changing too as kids grow apart or succumb to peer pressure to be something they’re not.

Although we can’t face our kids’ challenges for them, we can take steps to help prepare them for the highs and lows that await them in their teen years.

Here are five things you can do today to help smooth your child’s transition into a teenager.

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1. Get to know your child’s teachers and school schedule.

1. Get to know your child’s teachers and school schedule.

During the teen years, your child may have trouble fitting in and start to feel like they’re all but invisible. This is when you need to step up and show an active interest in your child’s day-to-day. One way to do this is by knowing your child’s teachers and course load at school.

Most schools have websites to access teacher assignment lists and test dates for each class. Get to know what your new teenager is learning, calendar their test dates, and offer help and encouragement. Sometimes a topic that your child finds especially knotty at school can be untangled when you explain it in your own words. Even reminding your kid that a test is coming up can make a world of difference to a kid who’s feeling like their efforts don’t matter.

You should also show up to parent-teacher conferences and, if your kid needs it, inquire about extra credit opportunities or tutoring availability. If you can’t make it to a school meeting in person, request a telephone conference or virtual meeting with your kid’s teacher. You can also be a comforting presence in your child’s often-lonely teen years by paying attention to what their interests are. Are they musically inclined? Do you have a budding artist or athlete in your midst? Show up to concerts and games whenever possible and sign your teen up for classes and camps to cultivate their interests and abilities.

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2. Familiarize yourself with the world of social media.

2. Familiarize yourself with the world of social media.

Even if you’re the most technologically challenged person, you have to acquaint yourself with the world of social media that your child is growing up in. You don’t have to post TikTok videos yourself to know what TikTok is and that children are exposed to dangerous challenges that are sometimes posted on that platform.

You also don’t have to be on Facebook or Instagram to know that research has proven that these platforms promote destructive behavior such as eating disorders among their users, especially among teen girls. Moreover, research has found that Instagram makes body image issues worse for one in three teen girls and has been blamed for prompting suicidal thoughts in teens generally.

As a parent, you have a duty to care for and guide your child. You may also be held legally liable for what your minor child posts online. Given your responsibility over your child, it’s crucial to balance your child’s reasonable expectation of privacy against your right to monitor your kid’s phone messages and internet usage, especially if you suspect that your child is using social media inappropriately, is being contacted inappropriately, or is in danger in any way due to their social media use. Simply put, no expectation of privacy trumps your need to safeguard your child’s wellbeing.

Some parents become so afraid of social media’s potential pitfalls that they forbid their teens from using it. Others view this option as unrealistic and, instead, cautiously embrace the positives social media offers. For example, if your child enjoys spending time on TikTok, have them follow the growing number of young Christian evangelists on that platform as one way to promote the good that social media outlet has to offer.

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3. Prepare your teen for peer pressure.

3. Prepare your teen for peer pressure.

Teens spend most of their time at school feeling pressure to stand out academically. Ironically, they also spend the majority of their time at school feeling pressure to fall into line socially. To address this, speak often to your young teenager about the waves of peer pressure they have coming their way—peer pressure to act a certain way, dress a certain way, or do a certain thing. This pressure to appease peers can take a mental and physical toll on a kid who is already wading through a swaying sense of self.

Explain to your teen that the company they keep is of utmost importance because it influences their judgment and what behavior they consider “normal.” Tell your impressionable teen that, because of this, it is always the case that bad company corrupts good morals, as the Bible warns (1 Corinthians 15:33). Support your teenager in setting healthy boundaries and saying “no” to people and situations that condone wrong behavior.

Your new teen will not appreciate hearing that they lack the emotional maturity and life experience to see the red flags that identify certain people as “bad company.” However, that shouldn’t stop you from identifying those people to your teen. You should also be frank in alerting your child about the consequences of succumbing to peer pressure and reassure them that the opinions of others don’t determine their self-worth. After all, your kid was “fearfully and wonderfully made” in the image of God Almighty Himself (Psalm 139:14; Genesis 1:27).

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4. Teach coping mechanisms to keep stress and anxiety at bay.

4. Teach coping mechanisms to keep stress and anxiety at bay.

Stress is the body’s normal response to a situation that makes us feel pressured in some way. Stress can be a positive thing when it motivates your teen to do their best during a test, game, or other situation. Once the external trigger causing the stress is over, stress levels usually recede.

Anxiety is defined by constant, excessive worrying that continues even in the absence of a stressor. Both stress and anxiety can become problematic when your teenager faces persistent challenges without enough downtime between each. Stress and anxiety can trigger mental and physical issues such as irritability, depression, digestive trouble, and muscle pain.

While severe stress and anxiety may require intervention by a professional, you can help your new teen manage mild stress and anxiety by teaching them coping skills. Effective coping skills that promote emotional balance include being physically active, eating a nutritious diet, getting good sleep, going outdoors, and laying worries at the foot of the cross. Don’t underestimate the power of encouraging your teen to trust in God’s plan for their life. Explain to your teen that they—and you—will never understand all of God’s ways, for His ways and thoughts are higher than our ways and thoughts (Isaiah 55:8-9).

However, God promises to bring good out of every bad situation for those who love and trust Him (Romans 8:28). Even when your child doesn’t immediately see what good can come out of a bad event, urge them to cling to their faith by sowing in times of tears so that they may reap in times of joy (Psalm 126:5).

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5. Remember your teenage mistakes and offer your teen grace because of it.

5. Remember your teenage mistakes and offer your teen grace because of it.

The Psalmist declares that “children are a gift from the Lord” (Psalm 127:3). Life teaches us that there are no bad kids, just bad choices sometimes made in even worse circumstances. As your child embarks on the difficult teen years, there will be many times when you’ll lose your cool over your kid’s boundary-testing behavior. Those are the times you should take a “perspective breather” and think back to your own mistakes as a teen.

Just as your heavenly Father doesn’t stay angry forever, show your child grace by giving them a break when they mess up. Teach the lessons and have your kid pay the consequences, but in a loving way that guides your new teen to the straight and narrow, not to bitterness towards you (Ephesians 6:4).

Pay special attention if your new teen is burdened by shame or regret over having made a bad choice. Reassure your kid that they are not their mistakes and that even good people do the wrong thing sometimes. In giving examples of people who made bad choices but turned things around to do great things, look no further than your Bible.

Examples of biblical figures who were not defined by their mistakes include Moses, who murdered a man (Exodus 2:11-12); Jonah, who fled from God’s command (Jonah 1); King David, who committed adultery and had a man murdered (2 Samuel 11:1-17); and Peter, who denied knowing Jesus despite being one of the Twelve Apostles (Mark 14:66-72).

While we’re on the topic of grace-giving, don’t forget to give yourself some grace, too. Your child may have just entered the teenage years, but you have just become the parent of a teenager and are worthy of some sympathy too! Raising a teenager is tough. The only thing more challenging is actually being a teenager. Remember this as you help your kid transition into their tumultuous teen years. With some active involvement from you, consistent guidance, and a healthy dose of grace, you’ll both do fine!

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