Raising Teenage Children

Helping Teens Become Organized


Start the process of organizing your teenager's life in her bedroom. With your teenager's assistance, go through her closet, desk, dresser and anywhere else clutter is hiding and divide everything you find into three piles: keep, toss and donate. Keep any important papers, including homework and other school-related documents, clothing, shoes and other items your teenager either wears or uses regularly. Toss any old papers, tattered clothing and pizza boxes you find under the bed. Donate any clothing, shoes or other items your teenager hasn't used or even touched in one year. Once you're done decluttering, create a list of everything your teenager needs to become more organized, including plastic storage bins and folders.

A Place for Everything

Once your teenager's room is decluttered, divide everything and determine where it belongs. For instance, store your teenager's dressy clothing, jeans and shoes in the closet. Reserve the dresser for undergarments, socks, shorts and T-shirts. Divide everything left and place the items into separate plastic storage containers. Label the containers and find a neat place to tuck them away. For instance, place any school supplied in a labeled container and store it under a desk. Organize the teenager's video game collection and store it under the bed. Remind your teenager to put everything away when she's finished using it.

Weekly Calender

Keep your teenager's life more organized by creating a easy-to-follow daily calender. Each Sunday, sit down with your teenager and plan out her activities for the week. Include any important school functions, tests, meetings and sporting events. Using a dry erase board allows the teen to modify or add events as they come up. Hang the calender in your teen's bedroom or a common area, if you're planning to make additions to the calender as well, such as doctor's appointments or reminders. Once the weekly planner is in place, help your stay organized on a day-to-day basis by implementing a short check-list system. For instance, go over your teen's school assignments and homework to ensure everything is up-to-date.

At School

Helping your teenager stay organized at school is more challenging simply because you're not there to oversee her progress. Work with your teenager to create a system that allows her to remain on task and organized while away from the home. For instance, provide your teen with several labeled folders or metal lockers shelves. Small magnetic hooks also allow your teen to keep her locker organized. With your teen's assistance, help her go through her backpack at the end of each week and remove any unnecessary paperwork, including old tests. Respect your teen's privacy if she isn't willing to allow you to dig through her backpack and instead encourage her to perform this weekly ritual on her own.

How Teenagers Handle Crushes

Infatuation Overview

The crush a teenager develops about another person generally involves the teen feeling intense interest in and fascination with another person, according to Lamia. In fact, the crush might even appear to be obsessive from a parent’s perspective. The difference between infatuation -- or a crush -- and a more mature love is that an infatuation involves a superficial attraction without genuinely knowing the other person. A crush might center on a person’s appearance, status or even a devised fantasy about the person’s personality or character.


A teenager might display feelings of embarrassment about a crush or when he's in the presence of the other person, according to the Kids Health website. The embarrassment might stem from confusion about how to act or about the other person’s response. The embarrassment might even lead an adolescent to make an abrupt exit from a circumstance that involves the other person.

Mood Elevation

When a teenager is on a crush high, you might notice distinct elevation in the teen's mood, according to Lamia. The teenager probably feels excited, invigorated and happy from the psychological boost of the infatuation. A teenager might approach life with a more positive and optimistic attitude, with common annoyances suddenly seeming insignificant and unimportant.


A lack of solid connection with the other person emotionally is what makes a crush a temporary infatuation instead of a more meaningful relationship. This lack of connection enables a teenager to fantasize about the other person and let her imagination run a little wild. The teenager likely views the other person as perfect, without flaws, simply because the infatuation hasn’t progressed to anything deeper and more meaningful, according to the Sexuality Resource Center for Parents.


A teenage crush often doesn’t last long. When the crush ends, possibly because of rejection, a teenager might experience typical sadness and feelings of heartbreak, according to the Kids Health website. Feelings of disappointment and dejection are also likely as the teenager experiences the end of the infatuation. Parents can help a child through this heartbreak period by offering support and understanding.

How to Motivate the Underachieving Teenager

Talk with your teenager about goals, desires and plans. An apathetic teenager might be forthcoming when you initiate a conversation, but a few strategic questions might start a thought process, suggests the University of Wisconsin-Madison Student Motivation Research Team in "Making Connections: Helping Your Teen Find Value in School." You might ask, “What do you see yourself doing one year from now (or two or three)?” or “What’s your favorite subject in school?”

Talk for at least a few minutes every day to keep a connection with your teen. Perhaps you’ll just discuss incidental time-of-day happenings or your teenager might come to you for help or support once you have a solid connection.

Find your teen’s hot spot -- the things in life that your teen cares most about, advises social worker James Lehman, with the Empowering Parents website. Simple observation should help you discern these priorities. Many teens treasure a cell phone, computer, car privileges, television, allowance and going out with friends.

Communicate with your teenager about making her priorities earnable, with strings attached, to help encourage motivation. A teenager who loves her cell phone and places it high on her list of priorities might suddenly become more motivated to try harder with school work if you make the cell phone contingent on school performance. Similarly, a teenager who wants regular use of the car might also try harder to get her assignments done in a timely manner if her car privileges are contingent on timely and high-quality work. Tell your teenager that she can continue to enjoy her cell phone or other privileges as long as she meets your requirements.

Monitor your child’s performance after instituting the consequences for substandard work. Regular communication with teachers by telephone or email can ensure that you know about problems or timely completion of assignments. Make sure your child also completes other requirements, such as household chores.

Follow through with your promise to take away privileges if your teenager does not perform. Once your teenager begins performing to your specifications again, she can earn back her privileges.

How to Keep a Teenager Occupied on a Long Airplane Trip?

Give your teen some electronic devices to keep her busy on the flight -- and don't forget to charge all rechargeable devices prior to leaving for the trip. Depending on the flight, a smart phone with WiFi connectivity can enable your teen to surf the Internet, play games or watch inflight streaming movies. You can also give your teen a tablet or laptop to keep her occupied. Add some batteries to your teenager’s bag if she’s going to use electronic devices that take batteries. If her devices require electric power or charging, pack the charging cords.

Encourage your teenager to take a book or two to read if she’s an avid reader. An eBook reader is another option for a teenager who enjoys reading.

Pack puzzle books, such as crosswords or word finds, for your teenager. Don't forget a few pencils with good erasers so your teen can complete the puzzles. Add a deck of cards if your teenager wants to play solitaire, too.

Tuck a few snacks into your teen’s bag. Teenagers often have voracious appetites -- and airline food might not fit your teen’s taste buds. Granola bars, crackers, fruit strips or whatever appeals to your teenager might make the air travel miles go more smoothly.

Find a small gift to surprise your teenager and add it to his bag. If the gift is something he can use on the plane, like a book, all the better.

Give your teenager some spending money to purchase inflight entertainment and food. Your teen might enjoy the ability to make independent purchases during the flight. Make sure your teenager keeps the money in a safe place.

Things You Will Need

  • Electronic devices (WiFi enabled)
  • Batteries or charging cables
  • Books or eBook reader
  • Puzzle books
  • Deck of cards
  • Snacks
  • Gift
  • Money


Check with your airline for their carry-on bag restrictions to ensure that your teen's carry-on bag is the right size and weight.

How to Motivate a Teenager to Wake Up

Adjust your teenager's bedtime. According to the National Sleep Foundation, teenagers require between eight and nine hours of sleep in order to remain productive. Help your teenager fall asleep faster by limiting his caffeine intake before bed, removing the television and providing him with a quiet environment and a comfortable bed.

Check on your teenager throughout the evening if you suspect he's not going to bed at a reasonable hour. Provide consequences, such as loss of privileges, to a teenager who is unwilling to follow the house rules. Contact a physician if you're concerned with your teenager's inability to fall asleep at a reasonable hour. The issue might stem from a diagnosable sleep disorder, such as insomnia or obstructive sleep apnea.

Locate the most irritating alarm clock possible and install it in your teenager's bedroom. Resist the temptation to shut if off and instead allow it to blare on until your teenager finally rouses and shuts it down himself. If your teenager still won't rise, set the alarm clock five minutes ahead and move it onto a dresser or desk across the room, making it necessary for your teenager to emerge from bed to shut it off.

Maintain a similar sleep schedule every day. The Kids Health website reassures parents it's acceptable to allow teens to sleep an extra one or two hours on the weekend, but no later. Any later in the morning or into the afternoon could seriously affect a teenager's sleep schedule.

Provide your teenager with a reward system for waking up without assistance. For instance, provide him with extra access to the car or use of a cellular phone if he rouses on his own for two weeks straight. Remove the additional privilege or reward if your teenager falls back into unhealthy sleep habits.

How to Handle Immaturity in Teenagers

Define your expectations for your teen so he knows what behavior you will tolerate and what behavior you will not tolerate. For example, you might insist that your teen speaks respectfully and politely, listens attentively and behaves responsibly with regard to house rules such as curfew, electronics, school and chores.

Talk with your teen frankly about immaturity so you have an understanding. While it’s fine to fool around and have fun sometimes, there is a time and place for this behavior. Tell your teenager that you expect him to always conduct himself responsibly and lawfully as he prepares for adulthood.

Call out immaturity when you see or hear it to help your teenager understand your expectations. For example, if you notice your teenager acting irresponsibly regarding a school assignment, breaking a commitment or talking disrespectfully about someone, call attention to the behavior and correct him.

Provide an example of maturity for your teenager to follow. Act responsibly in your affairs, paying bills, following laws, treating others respectfully, and manage the details of your life with care and attention.

Praise your child when you notice mature responses and behavior. When your teenager takes the initiative and performs extra chores, keeps his curfew, treats others respectfully or stays caught up on all school assignments, notice these major signs of maturity and tell him you’re proud of him. Positive reinforcement of the behavior you want is an effective way to motivate and encourage adolescents to try harder to meet your expectations.


Researcher and writer Robert Epstein, author of “The Myth of the Teen Brain,” asserts that society and the media have contributed to lower expectations for teenagers, which places fewer expectations on them for behaving maturely. By expecting your teen to behave maturely, he is likely to rise to the occasion. Studies of the brain through MRI can help determine how a person thinks. The Psychology Today website indicates that brains contain both white matter (neuron connections) and gray matter (unconnected neurons). As a teenager gets older, the gray matter portions of the brain diminish and white matter becomes more prevalent, indicating the brain becomes better organized as the child gets older. Even with information about brain development during adolescence, the Psychology Today website asserts that it is not possible to apply generalities about brain development to every teenager to explain or excuse immature behavior.

How to Be a Comfort to Teenagers When Their Mom Is Dying

Talk about a dying parent with the teenager, saying, "I am sorry about your mom. She is a very kind and funny lady." While some may worry that bringing up a dying parent will cause more grief, it can actually be a stress outlet for teenagers, according to KidsHealth.

Give the teenager an opportunity to talk, too. If your attempts at starting a conversation are ignored or pushed aside, it may not be the right time to talk about her dying mother. If she is willing to talk, hear her out and ask her if she would like any advice or help. Offering to help her write a eulogy, for example, may be a kind gesture that she remembers for life, according to Hospice Net, a non-profit organization educating people on grief.

Mow the lawn, shovel snow, care for pets or contact the teenager's school for homework -- these are all welcome gestures for the teen's household that take off some stress, according to PBS Kids. Ask the family first and offer suggestions for any chores that need completing.

Prepare a favorite dessert or bring over the teenager's favorite books; kind acts can go a long way in supporting a grief-stricken teen.

Tell a grieving teenager, "I will be here if you need me. I will check in on you again in a few days." Know when to keep your distance, but keep a look-out for any signs that a teenager may need additional help, such as if he mentions self-harm. Recommending a grief counselor to the teenager's parent may help him find comfort, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.


Listen to the teenager's desires. If she does not want anyone else to know that her mother is dying, keep it in confidence. Knowing that you are reliable and trustworthy can help teenagers cope during times of loss.

Out of Control Teen Behavior

Discerning Behaviors

Most teenagers exhibit unpleasant behaviors at some point during the process of growing up, but it’s important to analyze the behaviors to determine whether a teen is behaving within normal parameters or whether the teen has crossed over a line. Moodiness, irritability, withdrawal from standard family time, restlessness and impatience are examples of normal behaviors, according to social worker James Lehman, with the Empowering Parents website. Physical or verbal abuse, stealing, drug and alcohol use, or trouble with the law are examples of out of control teen behavior.

Explore Substance Abuse

Extreme behavior exhibited by a teenager often involves substance abuse, states Gregston. When you notice strong behavioral changes that include aggression, anger, a drop in grades and a belligerent attitude that communicates apathy, make arrangements to have your teenager assessed by a professional counselor or therapist. Ask a school guidance counselor or your child’s physician for a referral.


It’s common for a teenager to threaten to be uncooperative with an appointment with a therapist or counselor. With an uncooperative teenager, it’s important to move forward with an appointment regardless of the teenager’s attitude, advise therapist Jerome A. Price and psychologist Judith Margerum, with the Michigan Family Institute. Inform the teenager that you have made an appointment for you and him to meet with a therapist together and that you expect him to be there. If the teenager balks about attending, tell the teenager that you will meet with the therapist without him, and you intend to make decisions about his future at the meeting.


Once evaluated by a therapist, you should receive a recommendation for treatment for your teenager. You may receive a recommendation for inpatient treatment at a residential center designed for teenagers. You may receive a recommendation for outpatient treatment that involves both family and individual therapy for the teenager. Through treatment, the teenager will receive guidance and assistance in working through issues and possible substance abuse problems. You will also receive support and guidance for parenting your teenager in an effective and positive manner.

How to Be Positive Around Teenagers

Treat your teenager respectfully to institute a positive and respectful relationship between you and your adolescent, advises psychologist Laura Markham, with the Aha! Parenting website. Parenting with respect involves speaking with consideration, listening actively, empathizing as necessary and setting reasonable expectations and limits for behavior.

Nurture a bond with your teen to keep a strong connection. Even though a teen may sometimes act like he wants a parent to leave him alone, teens need closeness to provide security. This security gives teens the courage to move toward independence gradually. Whether you’re checking in with a quick “How’s it going?” or you’re shopping together on a Sunday afternoon, make an effort to stay close.

Stay involved with your teenager’s everyday life to show her that you are interested in what she’s doing and what’s important to her, advises the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Attend sporting and performance events and ask questions about her interests and hobbies. Monitor your teen’s daily activities to ensure that her behaviors and actions remain positive. If you see changes, ask questions to determine whether your teen could benefit from speaking with a professional.

Expect positive behavior from your teenager. Positivity usually begets positivity, so if you expect that your teenager will behave in a positive and respectful manner, she just might do this. An example of expecting positive behavior might be saying to your teenager, “See you at 11!” instead of warning her that she better not be late.

Fight the negativity that the media emphasizes. Books, movies and headlines often portray negative messages about teen behavior, warns pediatrician Kenneth Ginsburg, writing for the Psychology Today website. Instead of allowing these negative messages to cloud your teen’s perspective, point out hypocrisy and hype when you see it and discuss the realities with your teen. Don't lower your positive expectations for your teen. Find news stories about teens doing good for others and accomplishing goals -- and show these stories to your teen.

Teach and model positive conflict resolution for your teenager to instill these skills. When issues develop between the two of you, a teenager may tend to react intensely due to fluctuating hormones, according the Family Support Agency’s “Parenting Positively” brochure. Stay calm and set a positive example of discussing an issue, listening respectfully and work out an agreeable solution.

Relax and enjoy your teenager to ensure that the teen years have a positive overtone. Laughter and lightheartedness can be fuel positive interactions, enabling everyone to enjoy the teen years more.

Helping Teens Think Outside the Box

Take a Course Together

Bond with your teenager while you both expand your horizons by enrolling in a four-year or community college course together. Find a topic that interests you both, but is outside your present sphere of knowledge. For instance, if your teenager is interested in sports, take a course on film history or Italian literature. If he's more interested in film and TV than anything else, broaden his view of the world by attending a pottery class together. Aside from taking your teenager out of his comfort zone, this class should also be something that will engage him enough to keep him interested for several weeks. For younger teens, several community centers and universities also offer shorter courses and workshops.


Instead of allowing your teenager to spend his weekends hanging at the mall or lounging in his bedroom, encourage him to make a difference through volunteer work. Visit a church or other charitable organization to determine the volunteer opportunities available. Your Humane Society chapter, zoo or city park might require an extra set of hands. Whatever you decide, don't make volunteering a punishment. Instead, help your teenager view it as a way to understand his role in creating a better society. Volunteering after a natural disaster is another option. If your teenager is visibly affected by a hurricane, flood or other disaster, encourage him to volunteer his services to people in need.

Discover a New Hobby or Passion

Many teenagers are exposed to a passion or hobby they find enjoyable early in life, and continue this pursuit well into their adolescence and even adult years. Broaden your teenager by helping him discover a new passion, hobby or pursuit. For instance, encourage your sports fanatic to take up a musical instrument or try his hand at painting. If your teenager is skilled with a paintbrush already, encourage him to try out for the drama club. Work with your teenager to discover a hidden interest or talent he hasn't exhibited yet.


Change your teenager's perception about the world by exposing him to other cultures. If possible, pack your bags and enjoy an adventure in a far-off land as a family. Signing your teenager up to spend a semester or even year abroad through a school-sanctioned program is another option. Whatever you choose, encourage your teenager to discuss his views on how young adults live and interact in places other than his own.

How to Handle an Intervention on Stubborn Teens

Discuss the problem involving your teen with a spouse or the other parent, if possible. When dealing with a difficult teen problem, an allied front between both parents can be an effective way to present a formidable parental force, advises DrugFree.org.

Prepare the information and evidence you have that indicates your teenager needs help. For example, if you have found drug paraphernalia or other evidence of illegal or dangerous activity such as empty alcohol bottles, gather it to present to your teenager.

Determine your desired outcome of the intervention. For example, if you want your teenager to receive an evaluation, enter therapy or change schools, make this the goal you move toward as you speak with your teenager. If you have specific house rules and consequences you wish to place in force, formulate these rules so you can communicate them to your teen.

Choose a time when you and your spouse can discuss the issues at length with your teenager. This should be a time when you have privacy and the time to complete the entire conversation without interruptions or distractions. Both parents should sit down with the child to discuss the issues.

Deliver your messages with love and concern -- not anger or confrontation. You might say, "Your mom and I have found some evidence that points to you drinking alcohol and we're very concerned." Strive to remain calm throughout the discussion, even though it’s likely that your teenager will become angry or emotional.

Avoid reacting to your teenager’s emotions because that could make the intervention go badly. It might help if you grant your child "immunity," meaning that you won't punish her if she tells you the whole truth and nothing but the truth. If the discussion becomes too heated or someone loses control, take a break to allow people to calm down.

Communicate your desired goal to your teen. Provide the reasons for the goal and the results you hope will occur with this goal, too. Keep the focus on your child's health and well-being. You might say, "We want to make an appointment for you for a substance-abuse evaluation and we want you to cooperate with the recommendations."

Follow-through with the desired plan after concluding the discussion. Make plans to seek an evaluation or therapy for your teenager, if applicable. Institute the new rules and consequences immediately, if needed.


If your teen is especially uncooperative or you believe your teenager might have an addiction, consider hiring a professional interventionist for a formal intervention, advises Hazelden, a drug treatment center. A professional therapist or interventionist can guide the formal intervention toward the desired outcome to help deal with the teenager's addiction.


Never proceed with an intervention when your child is under the influence or you feel strong emotions, warns the Partnership for a Drug Free America website.