Late adolescence: 16-18 year olds

In some ways, life may seem easier when young people and their parents are going through this stage, yet the mature appearance and behavior may be misleading. Most late adolescents worry a great deal about whether they are ready to face the challenges that adulthood will bring. The pressures of school, relationships, first job and future planning often combine to cause frustration and depression.

  • Most young people have opportunities to experiment with drugs and liquor at this stage and parents have little power to prevent such opportunities from arising. A major objective should be to get adolescents through this stage alive and intact. Toward that end, parents need to be very frank about the dangers of mixing drinking and/or drugs with driving.
  • Be willing to provide transportation, no questions asked, at any hour, rather than have them ride with a driver who has been drinking or using drugs. Parents who do not have access to a car can provide transportation with taxi fare or a friend who is willing to help.
  • Once young people become sexually active, most of them remain sexually active. Information about contraceptives and other sexual matters must be made available. Open communication on such matters is an ideal goal, but if that is not possible, the child needs to be told where help can be found.
  • Pregnancy and venereal diseases are especially dangerous to bodies that are not fully mature.

Career choices can be difficult. Parents need to help young people explore careers based on their talents and interests rather than parental interests. Libraries, high schools, counseling centers, colleges and vocational career planning programs offer materials on the many options available.

Self-care for parents
When children leave home, parents may feel they have lost their most important job. There may also be the added financial burden of college. Try putting a new focus on adult relationships and getting out into the community. While one period of your life as a parent may be ending, a new one is beginning.

Above all, every teenager needs frequent, private, uninterrupted time with one or both parents. Do it on a regular basis. Give the child private moments, when she alone is the center of your attention, concern and love.

Tips on parenting teenagers

  • Every teenager needs frequent, private, uninterrupted time with one or both parents, on a regular basis. Give the child private moments, when she alone is the center of your attention, concern and love.
  • Make sure each rule is reasonable, clear and enforceable. If one of those characteristics is missing, the potential for conflict will be increased.
  • There is a difference between giving advice and listening. Sometimes, because as parents we want to be helpful to our young people, we get the two confused and our kids call it “lecturing” or “nagging” and tune us out. Ask, “May I make a suggestion about that?” and if they answer “Yes” you’ll find you really have their attention.
  • If you say to your teenager, “That’s your decision,” be prepared to mean exactly that and not to be angry or disappointed by the decision made. Specifically be prepared to accept unusual hair and dress styles if you allow your teenager to decide on his appearance.
  • As teenagers become more outspoken and independent, many parents begin to feel less important and like they are “losing” their son or daughter. It’s okay. The need for distance from family and closeness with friends is part of healthy development. However, studies show that parents continue to be teens’ most important influence.
  • When talking with teenagers, you frequently hear, “I don’t know” or “I don’t care”. Try not to take it as back talk. Those phrases are usually indicators of feelings of pressure or attack. Work on how he can feel safe and encouraged to share his thoughts and feelings.
  • Throughout your child’s teen years talk with other parents and family members. Learn how they handled similarsituations. Remember to take great care of yourself, continue to tell your teenager that you love him and fill your growing free time with activities you enjoy.