How to navigate the ups and downs of the teen years

Milk Thistle (Silybum marianum)
Written by Kris Bales of Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers.

If you’re the parent of a teen or tween, you know that those can be some emotionally difficult years. If you’re not there yet, hold on! Get ready for a ride on a wild emotional roller coaster.

Don’t misunderstand. Teens get a bad rap when it comes to attitudes and teen angst. I happen to think most teens are really amazing people. However, with hormones run amok and young people beginning to face more grown-up situations, emotions run high through these years.

I am thankful for the opportunity to homeschool my teens – not because I want to shelter them and not because I wouldn’t be similarly involved in their lives if they went to a traditional school. Rather, it’s because I so appreciate the extra time I have with my teens to come alongside them in these emotionally-charged years.

Today I want to share some tips for helping your teens through emotionally difficult situations – tips that are universal, no matter where your kids attend school.

Validate their feelings.

If we’re not careful, we can fall into the trap of failing to see the significance of the problems our kids face. They may seem insignificant in light of things like paying the mortgage, dealing with the uncertainty of a sick and aging parent, or disputing a claim with the insurance company.

But think back to your teen years. The things you dealt with back then may seem inconsequential now, but they didn’t at the time. As a matter of fact, the things you’re facing now may seem trivial to another adult in light of their current trials – but they certainly aren’t to you.

The hurts, disappointments, and uncertainties that your teen is facing are just as important to her at this stage in her life as your current trials are to you.

on parenting teens validation

Let your teen know that you understand the significance of what he’s dealing with. Sometimes I assure my teens that while whatever they’re facing right now won’t matter in 10 years (based on my own experiences even with trials I was facing as an adult 10 years ago), I know it’s important to them right now.

Other times, I’ve admitted that this hurt or trial may still be a painful memory 10 years from now. Either way, our teens need to know that we recognize what they’re facing is a big deal in their lives.

Try to rein in the mama bear.

Sometimes our first instinct is to rush in, guns blazing (metaphorically speaking), and let the offending party feel the full weight of our wrath because, y’all, teenagers can be mean to each other. And, if it’s an adult causing the problem? Oh, my word. We’re talking crazy-eyed mama bear.

There may be times when you do need to step in and talk to someone – in a calm, rational manner. But most of the time, it’s best to back off. Teens tend to be an emotional bunch. Sometimes, your teen will realize that she was the one blowing the situation out of proportion and it will right itself.

Other times, the best course of action is to advise your teen and let him work through the situation on his own. Learning to meet conflicts head-on, calmly and rationally, is a skill that will be useful throughout his adult life.

Offer your teen some perspective.

Our teens often forget that we were teenagers once. A lot has changed since then, but most of the basic relational issues our kids face have not. I recently had nearly identical conversations with both my 21-year-old and my 15-year-old about situations that each of them was facing.

I’m going to be vague to protect their privacy, but in both cases, I referenced an experience shared by my best friend from high school and me. One daughter was in the position I was in back then, and the other was in my best friend’s place.

On parenting teens - perspective

I was able to offer both of them some perspective from my own life looking back to how I wish things had been handled. I was so pleased that both of my girls were able to learn from my 20/20 hindsight perspective and apply it to their own situations for a positive outcome.

Allow time for emotional healing.

Recently, my 15-year-old dealt with one of those relational issues that will probably still be a painful memory 10 years from now. It was hard to rein in mama bear, y’all. I hurt for her, and there was nothing I could do.

When I was in high school, a friend’s mom used to allow her up to three days each school year as a mental health break. When she needed a chance to regroup, she could stay home from school as long as she wasn’t missing something important, such as a test or project.

I realized that my girl’s mind was not going to be on school and she just needed some time to sift through her feelings. So, I gave her the day off. My instincts were confirmed when a sweet friend (it may or may not have been Jamie Martin) messaged me to share an idea from the book, Simplicity Parenting.

She told me,

“The author talks about how when our kids have a fever, parents tend to keep them home from school, cancel their plans, rest, and allow for healing. Then he coins the term ‘soul fever’ and suggests that when our kids’ souls are hurting and in pain, isn’t it just as appropriate to pause ‘regular’ life for a bit to allow for the pain to heal? To nurture the soul guilt-free just as we would the body?”

I think it’s important that we, as parents, recognize that there is a time to say, “Suck it up, buttercup” and a time to pause and allow pain to heal – and to learn to differentiate the two. We want to raise strong, resilient kids and sometimes that means allowing time to grieve, process emotions, and regroup.

This isn’t your typical homeschool post, but parenting, life, and school are so intertwined for homeschooling families. At any stage of parenting, life will, at times, take precedence over school – and that’s okay.

What tips would you offer for helping kids successfully navigate the often emotional teen years?

About Kris

Kris Bales is the quirky, Christ-following, painfully honest voice behind Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers. She and her husband of over 25 years are parents to two amazing teens and a homeschool grad. Kris has a pretty serious addiction to sweet tea and Words with Friends. She also seems intent on becoming the crazy cat lady long before she's old and alone.


  1. I have 4 teenage daughters right now . . . with 4 more to come . . . oh, and some boys, too, eventually. I either really, really, really enjoy them, or I want to put them on the curb for immediate pick up. It seems to always be either extreme. 🙂

    I’m not good at being able to sense the difference between when to tell them to “buck up” or when to soothe and offer help, but I’m surely trying, and I hope to be good at it some day. I really appreciate that excerpt about “soul fever.” It is one I will tuck away in my heart for reference.
    Anne’s latest post: A Week, Briefly (In Which We Vote and Dance)

  2. I absolutely love the idea of the mental health break. It makes complete sense and is something I will be using in the future! I’ve got three teenagers right now, and, especially with the one, life is more exciting than any soap opera. 😛
    Shelly’s latest post: How Can Homeschoolers Handle Being with Their Kids All Day?

  3. MY Mom gave me the gift of mental health days as well. I wasn’t that great at realizing when I needed them, so she kinda imposed them on me – but always with a good result. Kinda reminds me of some friends in college. They were all roommates and they made a rule for their apartment that no one was allowed to start dating or break up or make any huge decisions (major changes, etc) the week of their cycle. Good rule 😉
    ann-Marie’s latest post: Rebecca’s 7th Birthday Party – A Felicity Tea

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