Time with parents is important for teens’ wellbeing

You may think you’re the last person on earth your teenager wants to spend time with, but new research reveals today’s teens are seeking out time with their parents, and that this shared time is very important to their wellbeing.

“The stereotype that teenagers spend all their time holed up in their rooms or hanging out with friends is, indeed, just a stereotype,” said Susan McHale, professor of human development and director of the Social Science Research Institute at Penn State. “Our research shows that, well into the adolescent years, teens continue to spend time with their parents and that this shared time, especially shared time with fathers, has important implications for adolescents’ psychological and social adjustment.”

Teenagers spending time with parents

Time spent with parents is good for teenagers’ wellbeing.
Image by racbannon/Flickr

Interviewing 200 children over seven years, the researchers found that parent-teen time with others present declined from the early to late teen years, but parent-teen time with just the parent and the teen increased in early and middle adolescence – a finding that contradicts the stereotype of teens growing apart from their parents.

They also discovered that:

  • time spent with dads while others were present led to better social skills in teenagers
  • time spent alone with dads developed self-esteem in the teen
  • first-born siblings experienced more of a decline in time spent with parents than their younger brother or sister, suggesting that parents put in more of an effort the second time around
  • mothers and fathers spent more time alone with a child of their same gender when they had both a daughter and a son.

We asked the readers of The Kids Are All Right how they spent time with their teenagers. These were their replies:

We have things called CFEs (Compulsory Family Events) that our kids must come to. Like birthdays, weddings, occasional breakfast/dinner out. Always give heaps of warning and put it on the calendar.


My girls love makeovers so we spend some time on cleansing routines, makeup, nail painting etc


We drag our lot off to historical reenactment events where there are no electronics allowed, that does the trick 😉

We watch movies and tv shows together, cook meals together, eat at the dining table as a family most nights, my husband plays online multi-player computer games with the boys and sometimes with his brother joining in as well, I quite enjoy shopping expeditions with my daughter (how very gender stereotypical of us!), my younger two and I are all taking singing lessons so singing together is a bit of a thing for us. So far the kids all seem to still think we’re ok human beings and are happy to hang around with us on weekends and during holidays, I suppose they’ll want to do their own thing someday. (Oh god, I HOPE so, that is what’s supposed to happen isn’t it?)


My teens and I spend regular time to together just hanging out. My 14 yo son and I have movie nights, and snuggle up on the lounge, and have a couple of series that we watch together and then pick apart afterwards. My 16 yo daughter and I shop, watch chick flicks and cry together. Both my teens have worked through a series of books together and will discuss them, often telling the person reading the next in the series to hurry up. I have always had a very open dialogue with my kids though. I have seen a lot of teens come through my house that don’t though. Which makes me sad.

Life on the Hill

My son is 13 and he spends a lot of time with the family. We go for walks, go on outings, go shopping, everything!


We (kids are 13, 13, 11 and 4) do a lot of things together and many of them have been mentioned above: hanging out, shopping, movies, TV, strawberry picking, sport, the park, BBQs etc etc. But the time when the most ‘important’ conversations arise and the time I hear most about their days is in the car. We do a lot of running around for their sporting activities and it is a rule in our house (or our car) that when we are driving around no one plays electronic games, or listens to their iPods etc. So we all listen to the same music and talk about mundane day to day stuff and it often ends up in really interesting or important conversations. None of my kids’ friends (and I really mean none) understand my rule about games, iPods etc in the car but I love it and it has worked so well for us. They are allowed to use all their electronic devices when we go on trips though!!!





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