A Parent’s Secret Weapon? Their Teen’s Pediatrician

Focusing on Teen Strengths

A recent study shows parents and teens may enjoy better communication if they get a boost of support from their child’s primary care provider.

The analysis began during the annual physical of more than 100 teens in Philadelphia. During the exam, half the parents received an 8-page booklet addressing three key messages about parenting during adolescence:

  1. Adolescence is a time of change and opportunity, and parents matter now more than ever
  2. Teens need to remain connected to parents and at the same time develop a separate identity
  3. Parents need to recognize and talk with teens about their strengths

They were also asked to complete a take-home activity with their teen. The activity had nothing to do with the adolescent’s eyesight or blood pressure. It didn’t ask parents to measure their teen’s physical activity or monitor how many fruits and vegetables they ate. Instead, parents were given instructions to discuss their teen’s strengths — characteristics like being kind, curious, or ambitious. Teens were given prompts to make it easier for them to talk about their parent’s strengths, too. The pairs were then asked to follow-up with the research team two weeks later, and again, two months after that.

Even as teens get older and spend more time with friends, parents still have a significant influence.

Supporting Parent-Teen Communication

The intervention positively impacted the way teens perceive communication with their parents. It also resulted in teens experiencing less distress and more positive feelings over the course of the study. The intervention was viewed as “highly acceptable” by parents and adolescents and was feasible to carry out in a busy primary care office. Parents and teens also found the exercise a helpful way to connect with each other in the midst of their busy lives.

The study underscores the importance of parents and teens talking about each other’s strengths and making sure positive discussions remain central to ongoing family interactions. It also highlights the potential for primary care providers to play an active role in supporting healthy parent-teen communication and connection.

Strengthening Connections

Effective parent-teen communication is vital for the long-term well-being of youth. Even as teens get older and spend more time with friends, parents still have significant influence, underscoring the need for continuing positive communication between parents and teens. To learn ways to have more successful conversations with your son or daughter, read these helpful Center for Parent and Teen Communication articles.

The study, “Efficacy of a Primary Care-Based Intervention to Promote Parent-Teen Communication and Well-Being: A Randomized Controlled Trial” involved the participation of 120 pairs of parents or caregivers and teenagers between the ages of 13-15 years. Families were recruited from one pediatric practice within the Pediatrics Research Consortium at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. The study was developed and conducted in partnership with Victoria A. Miller, Karol Silva, Elizabeth Friedrich, Reyneris Robles, and Carol A. Ford. Primary funding was provided by the John Templeton Foundation.

Art by: Samantha Lee/Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia

About Allison Gilbert

Allison Gilbert is Senior Writer for the CPTC. Her pieces cover an array of topics including self-care, bullying, grief, and resilience. Allison is author of numerous books and speaks across the country to corporations, non-profits, and community groups. You can learn more by visiting www.allisongilbert.com.

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