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Your teen’s emotional development

Group of teenagers sitting on floor near brick wallYoung people who understand and manage their emotions are more likely to:

  • express emotions effectively, speaking calmly and in an appropriate way
  • behave appropriately, not hurting others, things or themselves
  • learn how to bounce back after experiencing strong feelings like excitement, anxiety or disappointment.

All these things can help them make friends, become independent, and manage situations and feelings more effectively.

Being an adolescent comes with many challenges and it can be tough as your teen learns to manage emotional, physical and life changes all at once. Knowing what to expect will give you a head start in supporting your teen.

How to support your teen’s social and emotional development

Be a role model by demonstrating healthy, positive relationships and strategies in your life can help show your teen how to manage their own tricky emotions. Find healthy ways to express and release what you're thinking, like exercising, painting, drawing, or writing, practicing mindfulness.

Build connections with your child’s friends to help you to be aware of, and keep up with, their social relationships. Spending time with their friends is important for their development, as is your support of this.

Listen to your child helps strengthen the relationship between you. Give lots of attention whenever your teen wants to talk. Respecting your child’s opinions and feelings will help them feel confident and happy.

Discuss sex, sexuality, and relationships and let your teen know you're available to talk about anything they want. These discussions aren't always easy, but using a non-judgmental, open approach with your young person will help build trust. You could explore topics at times when it seems like a good moment to bring them up easily in the conversation while you're driving or cooking for example. Try to check in with child to see what they already know; that will give you the chance to correct any information that's incorrect. This could also be a good time to talk about things like sexting, consent and pornography.

There might be times where your child may seem sad, distant, or frustrated. It might be helpful to focus on the positive characteristics of your child.

When a young person may need help to manage strong emotions

  • If they are overwhelmed by their emotions and this leads them to be upset and miserable.
  • If they express their emotions inappropriately.
  • If they quickly go from being calm to having intense feelings like anger.
  • If they hide or push people away when overwhelmed.
  • If strong emotions go on for a long time after whatever triggered them.
  • If the young person struggles to relax enough to be with family, friends or enjoy a hobby.

Families who might need further support

Some children and young people need further support to help them learn how to manage their feelings and behaviour. Behaviour that challenges is often seen in children with additional needs that affects communication and the brain such as learning disabilities or neurodivergenceUnderstanding your child with additional needs is a course that looks at some particular aspects of parenting such as sleep and anger management, helping to make it easier to work with your child’s behaviour. Kent School Health offers one-to-one support based on your child’s unique needs. Visit our special educational needs page for more information on the support available for you and your child.

Useful resources

  • Families in Kent and Medway can access free online courses. ‘Understanding your child’ courses are here to you develop as a parent as your family grows. These free online courses are available in 15-20-minute chunks, perfect for busy parents and carers. There are courses available to help you understand your child, your teenager as well as courses to understand your child’s feelings.
  • Family Lives offers some useful tips on giving praise effectively, steps for empathy and time to calm down.
  • NSPCC provides a useful guide for positive parenting.
  • Family links offers some useful tips on giving praise effectively, steps for empathy and time to calm down.
  • Get in touch with the School Health Team for more support if you feel that your child is not managing their feelings well and need more support dealing with your emotions, counselling can help them to explore this.