Navigating Through the Teens

Coral Gables Counseling Center - Wednesday, July 05, 2023
By Erika Fernandez De Castro

Most parents struggle with the transition from parenting a child to parenting a teen. This typically happens because your teen is seeking independence yet instinctually, and secretly, knows they still need your help. This creates a major internal tug-of-war which your teen expresses through their behaviors. While these behaviors can vary, some examples can be seen in risk-taking behavior, withdrawn behavior from parents and family members, being short-tempered, as well as friend and school related issues.

Now the parents who once felt confident and secure in their parenting style find themself struggling to connect with their teens. They often feel lost, disappointed, and alone. One way to tackle the distance and help encourage independence while still connecting with your teen is purposeful teen parenting.

Purposeful teen parenting refers to a parenting approach that focuses on guiding and supporting teenagers in a deliberate and intentional manner. It involves actively engaging with teenagers, understanding their needs, and providing them with the necessary tools and resources to navigate through their adolescent years successfully. Purposeful teen parenting aims to foster healthy communication, build strong relationships, and empower teenagers to make informed decisions. It also involves setting clear boundaries, teaching responsibility, and encouraging independence while still providing a safe and supportive environment.


In an interview with Pirie Jones Grossman, Dr. Ken Ginsburg, a pediatrician, adolescent medicine specialist, and Founder of the Center for Parent and Teen Communication (CPTC) at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, described a good parent using a lighthouse analogy. A parent should think about themselves as if they are acting as their teen’s lighthouse. A “lighthouse parent,” according to Ginsburg, works to be “a stable force on the shoreline my child can measure themselves against. I see it as my job to look down at the rocks and make sure they do not crash against them. I look into the waves and trust they will eventually learn to ride them on their own. And I will prepare them to do so.” A parent must remind themselves that overprotection does not prepare teens to navigate turbulent waters. Preparation is protection for their future and the key to effective parenting.

Strategies for implementing purposeful teen parenting and being the “lighthouse” for your teen:

1. Establishing open lines of communication: Encourage your teenager to express their thoughts and feelings openly without fear of judgment. Create a safe and non-judgmental space for them to share their concerns, ideas, and experiences. Often teens just want you to listen. After they share something that is important to them ask, “Do you want my advice or just wanted me to listen?”

2. Setting clear expectations and boundaries: Clearly communicate your expectations regarding behavior, responsibilities, and academic performance. Establishing boundaries helps teenagers understand what is acceptable and what is not.

3. Encouraging independence and decision-making: Allow your teenager to make decisions and take responsibility for their actions. This helps them develop critical thinking skills and learn from their mistakes. It is important for teen parents to recognize that mistakes will happen and that they are not a reflection on your parenting.

4. Providing guidance and support: Offer guidance and support in their personal and academic development. Help them set goals, explore their interests, and make informed decisions about their future.

5. Being a positive role model: Lead by example and demonstrate the values and behaviors you want your teenager to adopt. Show them how to manage challenges, communicate effectively, and make responsible choices.

While your teen is learning to navigate that internal tug-of-war on their path to independence, every parent also must learn to practice patience in the process. Every teenager is unique, and it is important to adapt your parenting approach to their individual needs and personality. Purposeful teen parenting can make the process less stressful and also create another opportunity to connect with your teen.

P.S. To schedule an appointment with Erika Fernandez de Castro, you can call our office at 305-445-0477.



“Be the kind of parent that let’s them learn from life’s lessons. But also guides them to navigate the world within safe and moral boundaries.” Dr. Ken Ginsburg