A Guide for Supporting a Teen’s Emotional Health

By Karin Amador, MS, LPC-Associate, NCC

Supervised by Jennifer Buffalo, LPC-S, LMFT

It goes without saying that adolescence is a pivotal stage of development in a person’s life. It is a time in which many physical and emotional changes occur and a time in which new experiences shape a teen’s perspective of their world and themselves. Adolescence can bring challenges that feel scary and never-ending. While there’s no magical wand to wave away the challenges of adolescence, here are a couple of tips to consider as you walk alongside your teen and nurture their emotional development.

Be Interested

Show curiosity about your teen’s interests and hobbies. Research shows that when teens are encouraged to develop skills in areas they are interested in, they are more likely to master them, leading to increased motivation, self-esteem, and feelings of competency.

Listen to Understand, Not to Respond

Effective communication tools can help show your teen you value their voice and empower them to engage in healthy communication. Tools such as active listening, non-verbal gestures (nodding in understanding, smiling, uncrossing your body to reflect an open posture, leaning into the conversation), consistent eye contact, and paraphrasing (restating information to clarify and show understanding) can help you show your teen you are invested in communicating with them.

Encourage Creative Thinking and Experiences

Offer your teen opportunities to try new interests and hobbies, even if they do not stick with them. When discussing new experiences, interests, and hobbies, use a tone of curiosity and reinforce your teen’s attempts to welcome new skills, interests, and perspectives. Research shows that encouraging your teen to explore diverse activities can help nurture their overall self-esteem and confidence, resulting in resilience and a positive mindset.

Welcome Successes and Mistakes (and Share Your Own Too)

Celebrating attempts to try new things, learn new skills, and meet new people is just as important as celebrating successes. Acknowledging your teen’s mistakes as a part of learning and recognizing their efforts can help to normalize mistakes and failures. Share a time when you made a mistake and overcame it. Show your teen it’s normal not to get it right the first time and model compassion toward them. Talk with your teen about ways they might approach things differently to achieve different results (taking time to practice new skills, apologizing, asking for help, etc.). This can help your teen develop self-compassion and increase resilience.

Foster Hope

Being a teen is hard. With so many changes happening internally and externally, it’s easy for teens to get “lost in the sauce.” Acknowledge the specific challenges that teens go through in adolescence and normalize this stage of life as something everyone must go through, which is only temporary.

Join your teen in sharing the challenges of adolescence. Ask your teen what makes being a teen the hardest. Share what you found the hardest as a teen and how you feel about this challenge now. Show your teen you hear their challenges and share affirming messages such as:

  • “I hear you.”
  • “I get it.”
  • “I believe you.”
  • “I’m here for you.”

The connections you create with your teen can help nurture their emotional health beyond adolescence. By being a resource and safe space for your teen, you offer support at what can feel like an isolating and daunting time in their life.

Is your teen in need of support for their mental health? We are here for you. Schedule a complimentary consultation with one of our clinicians today!


Dresel, M., & Haugwitz, M. (2008). A computer-based approach to fostering motivation and self-regulated learning. Journal of Experimental Education, 77(1), 3–18. https://doi.org/10.3200/JEXE.77.1.3-20

Oropesa Ruiz, N. F., Simón Márquez, M. del M., & Saracostti, M. (2019). Parenting practices, life satisfaction, and the role of self-esteem in adolescents. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 16(20), 4045. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph16204045

Kaufman, S. B. (2015, August 31). How parents can help their child build self-confidence. Psychology Todayhttps://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/going-beyond-intelligence/201508/how-parents-can-help-their-child-build-self-confidence

Mutch, A. (2023, June 10). Building self-esteem in teens. Balanced Minds Psychology & Wellnesshttps://www.balanced-minds.com/post/building-self-esteem-in-teens

Raising Children Network. (2022, August 10). Confidence in teens. Raising Children Networkhttps://raisingchildren.net.au/pre-teens/development/social-emotional-development/confidence-in-teens

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