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Mother and daughter are having fun in colorful autumn nature

As Teens Gain Independence, Parents Seek to Stay Connected

Reach out to the parents of your child's friends to stay connected with your high schooler.

Mother and daughter are having fun in colorful autumn nature

Parents should remind themselves of fun times with their high schoolers to make dealing with challenging situations easier.

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Starting high school can be a difficult transition for teens. There are new friends, feelings and responsibilities.

But it can also be a tough time for parents who may find their children may be less willing to share information about their lives and spend time with them.

Teens are wired to be more private during adolescence because they are learning how to be more independent, says Carl Pickhardt, a Texas-based psychologist who specializes in parenting adolescents.

"As they enter adolescence, parents have less control," he says. "You’re going to have to get by on less communication while the kid is now entering a larger and more risky world."

However, Pickhardt says, this does not mean that parents should just sit back and do without any information. He says that parents should be frank with their kids that there are still going to be things they need to know about, such as why their teen was late getting home from school one day. ​

[Find out tips to help your teen transition to high school.]

Iowa mom Patty Link knows this struggle well. The mom of three is raising two teenage boys: Graham, a 14-year-old eighth grader, and Carter, a 16-year-old junior in high school. She says that becoming acquaintances with the parents of her children's friends​ has helped. 

"A lot of times if I want to get any information out of them, I’ll say, 'Oh, I talked to Adam’s mom and she told me this was going on Friday night,' and it will lead to some other discussion," she says.

Parents should watch their use of questions, Pickhardt says, because they can be a symbol of authority, and that tends to not go over well with teens. "They want to be respected as their own independent individual," he says.

Pickhardt suggests using requests such as, "It could really help me if you could tell me," "I would really appreciate if you let me know," or "Could you help me better understand."

But sometimes teens make mistakes and parents have to correct them. Parents should plainly state the problem, Pickhardt says, and avoid judgments of character.

Link says sometimes parents might just need some space. "The first thing I do is just distance myself until I cool off," she says.

Having a good relationship to fall back on will make these tough times easier, Pickhardt says.

[Read about how to stay academically engaged with your teen.]

Between different schedules and interests, though, it can be a challenge to find quality time together. Link says her family tries to go on two big vacations a year, but sometimes the best times are the most simple.

"When you take them in a car, they talk forever," she says. "They will tell you everything when you’re driving because there is nothing else to do."

Parents can also use technology to feel connected. One 2013 study revealed that many teens are friends with their parents on Facebook – and only 5 percent limit what their parents can see. 

Above all else, parents should remember that the trials of adolescence won’t last forever and to not be afraid of letting go, Pickhardt says.

"One thing I tend to think of is that there’s been a million people who have gone through this before me," Link says.

Have something of interest to share? Send your news to us at highschoolnotes@usnews.com.