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Learning Activities

All Learning Activities

Responding to Your Adolescent

This learning activity is a summary of a workshop on responding to your adolescent and includes the following sections:

Time Required

One 45-minute session

Setting and Audience

This activity is designed to be led by an experienced facilitator in a variety of settings, including:

  • A lunch-time workshop series in a work setting
  • Workshops at community-based organizations
  • Workshops sponsored by schools
  • Workshops sponsored by communities of faith
  • Support groups (formal and informal)
  • Weekend retreats

The audience for the activity is parents of adolescents ages 11-19.

Workshop Description

In this workshop:

  • Parents hear a brief presentation on adolescent development and parent-child connectedness.
  • Parents get into pairs to analyze a story about a parent and his/her teenager. They determine if the teen's behavior is reasonable, the effectiveness of the parent's response, and alternative ways of responding.

Workshop Objectives

By the end of this session, parents will be able to:

  • Recognize that teenagers' desire for independence is a normal part of adolescent development;
  • Distinguish between adolescent behavior that is normal and reasonable and that which is unreasonable; and
  • Find constructive ways to respond to teens' behaviors that may feel frustrating to parents.

Materials Checklist

Set-up and Preparation

  1. This workshop covers information on adolescent development and parent-child connectedness. It is important that you to have an in-depth, working knowledge of both topics. For a more in-depth discussion of adolescent development, visit ReCapp's Topic in Brief on Adolescent Development. You can download a free copy of ETR's literature review on parent-child connectedness.
  2. Choose a warm-up activity to conduct at the beginning of this workshop. The warm-up activity should help to create a safe and comfortable learning environment for the other activities in this workshop.
  3. Read the scenarios in the handout, "Is This Reasonable Adolescent Behavior?" and identify points that you want to make with each of the situations. You might not need or want to use all the scenarios, so choose the ones that seem most relevant to your group.



  1. Introduction (5 minutes)
    1. Introduce yourself and give an overview of today's workshop. Explain that today's session will:
    • Help them understand the common abilities and behaviors that can be seen in most teenagers. These qualities are a sign that teenagers are moving from childhood towards early adulthood;
    • Give information about parent-child connectedness (PCC);
    • Explore the ways that parents' responses to common teen behaviors can affect PCC; and
    • Find ways to respond to teen behaviors that will help maintain or enhance the parent-teen connection.
    1. Ask parents to introduce themselves and conduct the brief warm-up activity you have chosen. Outline the following ground rules to help create a safe and comfortable environment for today's discussion:
    • Listen with an open mind.
    • Respect different points of view.
    • Take care of yourself — trust your gut.
    • Share the time with each other — don't dominate the discussion.
    • Ask any questions — there is no such thing as a stupid question.
    • Recognize that it's normal to feel a range of feelings — joy, sadness, anger, guilt, etc. — when discussing your childhood and your own children.
    • Recognize that all parents want the best for their children and are doing the best they can with what they currently know and understand. All parents have both strengths and challenges.
  2. Adolescent Development and PCC (10 minutes)
    1. Distribute the handouts "Understanding Your Adolescent's Behavior" and "What is Parent-Child Connectedness?"
    • If your group has completed the Understanding Adolescent Development activity, then this activity can be used as a review or it can be skipped, leaving more time for discussion during the other activities in this session.
    1. Give parents a minute or two to review the "Understanding Your Adolescent's Behavior" handout silently. (Note: If you suspect that any parents will have difficulty reading the material, read it aloud yourself or ask volunteers to read it aloud.
    2. Use the following questions to lead a brief discussion:
    • What do you think about this information?
    • Can you see any of these changes happening to your own children? For example, how do you see your teens seeking independence? Give some examples.
      During this discussion, be sure to give a very brief definition of PCC and explain the protective outcomes (found in the "What is PCC?" handout) that come from having a close connection between parent and teen. Encourage parents to spend some time with the "What is PCC?" handout later.
    1. End this segment by making the following points:
    • The way parents respond to their children's changing behavior during adolescence can impact parent-child connectedness negatively or positively.
    • The next activity is going to help you become more aware of the kinds of teen behaviors that are really normal and reasonable, the different ways that parents might respond to these typical behaviors, and some tips for managing your responses to maintain or increase the connection you have with your teen.
  3. Is This Reasonable Adolescent Behavior? (15 minutes)
    1. Distribute the "Is This Reasonable Adolescent Behavior?" handout and read the directions.
    2. Ask parents to pair off and assign each pair one of the situations. Let them know they have five minutes to discuss their situations.
    3. After five minutes, reconvene the large group and talk about each of the situations one by one, getting parents' input. Be sure to focus on the ways that parents' reactions can impact PCC.
  4. Tips for Responding to Your Teenagers (10 minutes)
    1. Distribute the handout, "Tips for Responding to Your Teenagers" and have volunteers read each of the suggestions.
    2. Ask parents to briefly give some reactions to the handout.
  5. Wrap-Up (5 minutes)
    1. Tell parents that the workshop is coming to a close. Explore their reactions with the following questions:
    • How helpful was this workshop?
    • What are the most important things you learned?
    • What are your goals for your relationship with your teenager?
    • What specific things are you going to do to respond positively to your teen's need for independence?