Even as toy phones are replaced with cell phones, growing adolescents continue to look to their parents for guidance, support and unconditional love. Surprised? You shouldn’t be.
“Parents remain the most important person in a teen’s life — even as friends and peers become more important,” says Ken Ginsburg, MD, MSEd, co-founder of the new Center for Parent and Teen Communication at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. “Our goal is to give parents and teens the skills they need to communicate with each other more effectively.”
For too long, adolescence was seen as a combative time when reckless, impulsive teens fought against critical and unyielding parents. Just “surviving” adolescence was seen as success.
Today, Ginsburg and Carol Ford, MD, co-founders of the Center, are working to change the way adolescence is viewed — by both teens and adults.
“Adolescence is a time of opportunity, when young people learn about themselves, experiment and push boundaries,” Ginsburg says. “And parents are their guides on their journey toward adulthood.”
Powered by decades of research and funded by the John Templeton Foundation, the Center aims to build parents’ skills and give them the tools to help their children become healthy, responsible, well-adjusted adults.
Loaded with advice on many topics, the Center’s new website includes content for parents and teens. Everything on the site is reviewed by experts on adolescent development, parents and an advisory panel made up of young people ages 14-22 from across the country.
“Some of the most powerful voices we have on the site are real teens,” says Sarah Hinstorff, 22, a student at the University of Pennsylvania who manages the Center’s Youth Advisory Board.
In one collage-style video, dozens of teens describe what they need from their parents: To accept them, encourage them and respect them. To listen to them, let them fail and be there for them. To trust them, give them freedom and set boundaries. Bottom line: Teens need and want their parents in their lives.
“As parents, we have to find a way to balance our own conflicting emotions about adolescence: How do I protect my child, while still letting them learn life lessons?” Ginsburg says. “But the most important message adolescents need to hear from their parents is this: You are someone worthy of being loved and noticed.”