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Ask Nicole: Tips for the Teen Years

It wasn’t that long ago that I was riding the wild, twisty rollercoaster called Raising Teens. I remember countless tense discussions with my son in particular, who often felt the rules and schedules at home and school didn’t apply to him. It was stressful and exhausting to stay calm and find a balance between setting age-appropriate limits and fostering independence. I’ll admit I wasn’t always successful, but we made it through the turbulent teen years and now enjoy seeing the independent, responsible, and insightful young adult he’s become. In fact, we’re celebrating him getting his first full-time job in the field that he studied. I’m beaming with pride (and relief)…and biting my tongue to avoid saying, “Get to work on time!”


This monthly column provides tips for anyone who is helping raise children, based on the world-renowned Triple P – Positive Parenting Program, available to families in Santa Cruz County. If you have a question or idea for a future column, please email us at


Dear Nicole,


I don’t know what to do with my 15-year-old. They want to go out with friends that I don’t know and then give me attitude when I ask where they’re going or who they’ll be with. They say I’m too controlling, but I feel like it’s my job to set age-appropriate limits. We argue a lot, though, and I worry about what it’s doing to our relationship. What can I do?


-          Amalia


Dear Amalia,


Adolescence can be a hard developmental stage for everyone. The part of the brain responsible for thinking logically, managing emotions, and controlling impulses is still developing. This means teens still need their parents and caregivers to provide guidance, even as they’re pushing them away. It can be challenging for parents and caregivers to remain calm and involve their teens in setting rules and making decisions. They might feel like their teens aren’t ready or responsible enough. Yet this is how teens develop social, emotional, and life skills that will prepare them to become independent adults. Here are some tips to try:


Remember there’s a lot going on. It’s common for teens to want more independence and less interference from adults. Teens go through physical, mental, emotional, and hormonal changes that can transform their appearance and moods. Some teens think they know all the answers and are invincible, and therefore don’t need parents to be involved in their business. Other times, teens are exploring different parts of their identities and discovering who they are — which might be different from what they’ve been taught to think, believe, or feel by their family and society. These feelings and experiences can create confusion, discomfort, or internal conflict for teens, but they might not be ready or know how to share this with others.


Foster open communication: Create a safe and non-judgmental space for your teen to express themselves openly. Have regular, casual conversations about their thoughts, feelings, and experiences. Ask about school, their likes and dislikes, friendships, or other topics that interest them. Listen actively and acknowledge and empathize with what they say, even if you don’t agree with them. Avoid discussing discipline, expressing disapproval, or giving advice unless you’re asked. This helps keep the lines of communication open.


Talk about realistic expectations. Testing limits is a natural part of adolescence. It’s how teens practice thinking for themselves, making decisions, and solving problems. When teens ignore family rules, some parents and caregivers react by becoming stricter about rules and consequences. Others give in to avoid a power struggle. Neither reaction is helpful.


Instead, talk with your teen about realistic rules and expectations. Involve them in developing a few family rules about going out with friends that they can agree to follow and that will reassure you they’re safe and responsible. Discuss which expectations are non-negotiable (e.g., keeping you informed about where they are) and which ones are flexible depending on the situation (perhaps their curfew).


Encourage independence: While it's natural to want to protect and guide your teen, it's also essential to encourage independence and autonomy. Allow them to make their own decisions (within reason) and learn from their mistakes. Offer guidance and support but resist the urge to always say ‘no’ or do things for them.


FINAL THOUGHTS: Maintaining open communication and a positive relationship with teens is the most important job parents have during adolescence. It’s easier said than done, but your efforts will pay off for years to come.


09 Teen Years - March 2024 - TriplePNews (Eng)
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Nicole Young is the mother of two young adults, who also managed Santa Cruz County's Triple P - Positive Parenting Program for over 10 years. Yesenia Gomez-Carrillo is the mother of a 19-month-old daughter and the Triple P Program Manager for First 5 Santa Cruz County. Scientifically proven, Triple P is made available locally by First 5, the Santa Cruz County Health Services Agency, and the Santa Cruz County Human Services Department. To find a Triple P parenting class or practitioner, visit,, or contact First 5 Santa Cruz County at 465-2217 or

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