Parent & Teenager Conflict

By Karen Hellesvig-Gaskell
Parents can better prepare for the teen years when they know what to expect.
Parents can better prepare for the teen years when they know what to expect.

Conflicts between parents and teens are nearly as certain as knowing that the sun will rise tomorrow. Clashes during adolescence can create some of the most challenging times for families, notes the American Psychological Association (APA). Hormonal changes and the struggle to find her place in a complicated world can leave a teen angry, confused and feeling that no one -- especially her parents -- understands what she's going through. Parents may throw up their arms in despair now that the disciplinary tactics that worked well during childhood have little or no value.


Teens face a myriad of pressures, challenges and temptations that would be tough enough for a fully developed brain to deal with, let alone an adolescent brain that has yet to fully mature, explains, a website published by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Conflicts can arise as teens pull away from their parents and muddle their way toward independence. Ironically, a teen is quicker to cut the apron strings with the parent with whom he felt the closest bond. As teens move through their growing pains, they naturally become less reliant on their parents and increasingly independent. Spending more time with friends becomes a priority.

Common Areas of Conflict

Handling issues that arise during adolescence can be stressful for everyone concerned. The intrinsic pull to separate from her parents can prompt a teen to constantly have strong opinions that are at odds with mom or dad. Curfew times, dating and sexuality, academic and work performance, driving privileges, choice of friends and clothing along with the biggies like drinking, drugging and smoking are hot topics in parent-teen conflicts.

Warning Signs of Potentially Serious Problems

Don't bury your head in the sand if you think your teen may be using alcohol or drugs. It's essential for parents to stay involved between the critical ages of 13 to 18, Amelia M. Arria, PhD, director of the University of Maryland's Center on Young Adult Health and Development, tells WebMD. Possible warning signs of substance use and abuse that may warrant professional help include aggressive behavior or violence, skipping school, running away from home, run-ins with the law and promiscuity.


Teens get a charge out of shocking their parents. As tempting as it may be to get on your child's case for every little thing you deem inappropriate, it's wiser to let go of the small stuff. Let your teen express herself in ways that are temporary and harmless like dying her blonde locks jet black or wearing what you may consider outrageous clothes while putting your foot down over potential long-term problems like substance use and sexual promiscuity.

Most young people manage to get through the teen years virtually unscathed, though some run into problems that can lead to drug abuse, crime and dropping out of school, notes the APA. Despite the stereotypical image of a rebellious teen who is forever at odds with his parents, such a negative scenario is not typical of most adolescents.

About the Author

Karen Hellesvig-Gaskell is a broadcast journalist who began writing professionally in 1980. Her writing focuses on parenting and health, and has appeared in “Spirituality & Health Magazine" and “Essential Wellness.” Hellesvig-Gaskell has worked with autistic children at the Fraser School in Minneapolis and as a child care assistant for toddlers and preschoolers at the International School of Minnesota, Eden Prairie.