The teen years can be among the most challenging parenting years and in some ways the most rewarding. Your child is working on finding him or herself and you, as the parent, are the guide and role model in that endeavor. While there is a lot of friction between most teens and parents, these can be interspersed with moments of greater bonding, as your teen can relate to you on a higher level.


  • Many teenagers prefer to snack. Make sure you purchase plenty of fruits, vegetables, and calcium-rich foods. Given the choice, they would probably grab a handful of potato chips. They will reach for what’s convenient so have plenty of healthy foods to choose from.
  • Teenagers often gain too much weight from overeating high calorie snacks, fast foods, drinking too much soda and juice and too little exercise.
  • Encourage consumption of healthy foods and beverages. Avoid high calorie foods/snacks and high calorie beverages.
  • Teenagers should consume roughly 1300mg of calcium per day. Calcium rich foods include dairy products, green, leafy vegetables, and calcium fortified juices.
  • The best way to get your teenager to eat well is to be a good role model. Encourage family meals and have open ended conversations about making good food choices. In the next few years, you will be there less and less to keep an eye on what’s going on their plates.


  • Most girls have completed the physical changes related to puberty by age 15.
  • Boys are still maturing and gaining strength, muscle mass, and height and are completing the development of sexual traits.
  • At this age, many teenagers may stress over school and test scores. Today’s society puts a tremendous amount of pressure on children to succeed. Make sure your expectations and your child’s are realistic.
  • Your teenager may be concerned about physical and sexual attractiveness. They may start to explore romantic and sexual behaviors. Your child will receive a lot of misinformation from friends and the media. When questions and issues start to come up naturally, take advantage of these times to discuss your values and answer any questions honestly.

Behavior and Discipline

  • At this age, your child’s friends and the need to fit in become more important. Talk with your child about peer pressure. Watch for signs of changes in your child’s normal behaviors that go against the family’s value system. Your child may be influenced by friends to try risky behaviors (alcohol, tobacco, sex).
  • You should continue to set limits and enforce consequences. Your child may feel that you are preventing her from doing things independently, but hopefully you are helping your child avoid errors in judgment that could have lifelong repercussions.


  • Motor vehicle accidents are the number-one cause of death in children between the ages of 16-20. Talk to your teens about the dangers of using a cell phone, especially texting, while driving and driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
  • If your teen may be sexually active, encourage open discussions of birth control methods (oral contraceptives, condoms) and discussion of sexually transmitted infection prevention. Keep the lines of communication open and continue to build trust with your teens or encourage teenagers to talk with a trusted adult about their sexual activity.
  • As most adult smokers started smoking as teens, now is the time to discourage your teen from becoming one of those statistics. Because teens are more likely to be concerned about current issues future health problems, emphasize how much cigarettes cost, how much they smell and how smokers have to stand far away from building entrances in Chicago. It might help to remind them just how cold those Chicago smokers must feel in January!

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