Role Models for Your Teen

By Rachel Paxton

By the time your children reach their teens, there's a limited amount of time left to influence them and help guide them in the right direction. The teen years are a critical time for role models in your children's lives. Many teens have a difficult time talking to their parents. Even in the closest families, teens often feel more comfortable talking to another trusted adult about some of the things going on in their lives.

Though you obviously have no real control over whom your teen seeks out for advice, there are a number of ways you can help steer him or her in the right direction.

Extracurricular Activities

Extracurricular activities provide excellent opportunities for your teen to interact with other adults. There are all kinds of activities your teen can be involved with, including church youth groups, scouts, sports, music, school clubs, community service, just to name a few. I don't encourage parents to involve their teens in so many activities that it leads to burnout for both the parents and the teen, but carefully selected activities led by good and capable leaders will enrich your teen's life in many ways. It will also increase the likelihood that your teen will establish a relationship with one of the group leaders.

One word of caution, however. Talk to your teen about their activities and get a feel for the character and effectiveness of the group leader. That's not to imply the leader must excel in every way, but it will help you to ensure that he or she is a positive role model and not a negative influence on your teen. There can be bad leaders in any activity, including church groups, and it's the parents' responsibility to check them out.

Group activities are especially valuable for teens from single-parent households. Teens who lack regular contact with mature adults of both sexes often struggle to build healthy adult relationships later in life. Exposure to mature adults of both sexes at this age significantly increases the teen's chances of becoming a well-adjusted, emotionally mature adult. I have seen many examples of boys raised by single mothers who have greatly benefited through group activities led by mature male adults. These teen boys have much less difficulty transitioning into adulthood than those who lack positive male role models.

Cultivate Your Teen's Unique Abilities

From my own experience, I have often found that other adults can help my teen in ways that I can't, mostly due to personality differences. I'm more of a quiet introspective thinker, and my daughter is very outgoing. She has lots of potential leadership qualities that are hard for me to help her develop because I do not possess those qualities.

Knowing how important it is to help her develop her natural abilities at this impressionable age, I make every effort to ensure she is exposed to other adults who can help influence her in ways I can't. My daughter and I are very close, but there are many things that I can't help her with, and I encourage her to develop relationships with adults with complementary abilities.

My daughter and I respect our different abilities and personalities. It's all too easy to be critical of people who are not like us, and parents and teens often fall into this trap. It's important to honestly assess your own abilities and the abilities of your teen, and do whatever is necessary to find outside influences who will help draw our her unique potential. The more you can help your teen develop their abilities now, the less they will have to do on their own later (often, the hard way).

And don't forget, you are also a role model. Get involved in the lives of your teen's friends, or volunteer to help in a group activity in some way, even if only occasionally. There are teens out there who really need to hear what you have to say.


Rachel Paxton is a freelance writer and mom who is the author of the Creative Homemaking Recipe of the Week Club Cookbook, a cookbook containing more than 250 quick easy dinner ideas. For recipes, tips to organize your home, home decorating, crafts, and frugal family fun, visit Creative Homemaking at

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