Caring for your teen

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The choices you made when your child was a baby — breast or bottle, cloth or disposable — probably seem easy now that you're faced with the challenges of parenting a teen.

Team up with your doctor

One way parents can support teens is by helping them take responsibility for their health. It's important for teens to see a medical professional they know and trust and for you to give them time alone with their doctor to discuss their personal health concerns.

Use our doctor and location search to find teen clinics or other services, and to find a physician for your child.

When your child turns 13, he or she can register for his or her own account to use some of our online services.*

Because state law allows teenagers to get some types of care without a parent's knowledge or consent, Kaiser Permanente can't share some or all of your teen's health information with you.

When your child turns 12, 13, 14, or 18 (depending on your state law), you may not be able to access some of your child's information online through Act for a family member.

Growth and development

The natural changes your teen goes through during adolescence can be difficult for both parents and teens. Your love and guidance during this time can help your teen make good decisions. Start by learning more about normal growth and development between the ages of 11 and 14 and 15 and 18. Then consider some of these points:

  • Try to accept the natural changes in your relationship with your teen. It's normal for teens to want more independence.
  • Recognize that your teen may be less willing to be involved in some family activities and may start to challenge your authority.
  • Respect your teen's need for privacy. Be open with your teen if you have safety concerns.
  • Be flexible. Allow your teen to test, explore, and communicate within limits, but stay firm and consistent.
  • Establish realistic family rules, with more responsibility as your teen seems ready. Set clear limits and consequences if rules are broken.
  • Help build your teen's confidence by paying attention. When she wants to talk, try to stop what you're doing and really listen.
  • Along with your teen, decide which activities are okay to do on his own, such as staying home alone or going out with friends who drive.
  • Spend personal, fun time with your teen. Try to keep a sense of humor and praise positive behaviors.
  • If you're having trouble getting along with your teen, try talking with other parents, family members, or a counselor.

For more information and support for raising a healthy teen, search our health classes.


Talk with your teen about sexuality, sexual orientation, relationships, and responsibility. Share your views about sex and discuss the potential emotional and physical consequences (such as pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, and guilt). Start the conversation, and start it early.

Here's information that can help:

How to talk with your teenager about sex
Birth control
Condom use
Emergency contraceptive pills
Safe sex
Sexual orientation (for parents)
Sexual orientation (for teens)
Sexually transmitted diseases

Tobacco, alcohol, and drug abuse

Children who learn about the risk of drugs at home are up to 50 percent less likely to use drugs than those who are not taught about the dangers. Get the information you need to give your teen good advice and solid guidance:

Recognizing and dealing with teen substance use
Teen alcohol and drug abuse
Tobacco (for teens)

Emotional health

Everyone — including kids — feels down or upset at some point in their lives. But when sad feelings last for a long time, it may be more serious. Review the risk factors and signs of depression in teens, and let your teen know the importance of emotional health as well as physical health.

Problems at school or with peers can also affect teens' mental health. Learn more about:

Peer pressure
Eating disorders and Body image


School is a major part of your teen's life, so it's important for you to stay involved.

  • Tell your teen why you think education is important.
  • Show interest in your teen's school life and pay attention to grades and attendance problems.
  • If there are problems, work with the school staff and your teen to find out what's wrong.
  • Encourage your teen to join one or more school activities (such as playing sports or acting in a theater group). It can help your teen feel connected.
  • If your teen is having difficulty with schoolwork, arrange for tutoring or extra help.
  • Start talking about your teen's future. Discuss how having a college education will open up opportunities.

*Teen access to online services varies by region.

Reviewed by: Robert Riewerts, MD, 2018

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