How to be the adult that you wanted as a teenager

As parents, mentors, or key workers, we often find ourselves reflecting on our own teenage years and the adults who influenced us during that time.


Some of us may have had positive role models who provided guidance, support, and understanding, while others may have longed for someone who could truly understand and connect with them. Now, as adults, we have the opportunity to be the kind of supportive figure that we wished we had when we were teenagers.

How can we be the supportive figure we wanted?

Here are some ways to be the adult that you wanted as a teenager:

Listen without judgment

One of the most valuable things you can do for a teenager is to listen to them without passing judgment. Create a safe space where they feel comfortable sharing their thoughts, feelings, and experiences without fear of criticism or ridicule. Validate their emotions and let them know that their feelings are important and respected.

Be empathetic

Remember what it was like to be a teenager. Empathise with the challenges they are facing, whether it's dealing with peer pressure, academic stress, or uncertainty about the future. Let them know that you understand and that you're there to support them through whatever they're going through.

Offer guidance, not directives

Instead of telling teenagers what to do, offer guidance and support as they navigate their own paths. Help them explore their interests, set goals, and make decisions, but allow them the freedom to learn from their own experiences and mistakes. Offer advice when needed, but encourage them to think critically and make their own choices.

Respect their autonomy

Teenagers crave independence and autonomy. Respect their need to make their own decisions, even if you don't always agree with them. Trust that they are capable of learning and growing from their experiences, and be there to offer guidance and support when they need it.

Be consistent and reliable

Build trust by being consistent and reliable in your support. Show up for them when they need you, whether it's for a difficult conversation, a celebration, or just to hang out and talk. Let them know that they can count on you to be there, no matter what.

Lead by example

Be the kind of adult you want them to become. Model positive behaviours, such as kindness, resilience, and integrity. Show them that it's okay to make mistakes and that what's important is how you learn and grow from them.

Celebrate their successes

Acknowledge and celebrate their achievements, big and small. Whether it's getting a good grade, making a sports team, or simply showing kindness to others, let them know that you're proud of them and that their efforts are valued.

Be patient and understanding

Teenagers are still figuring out who they are and where they fit in the world. Be patient with them as they navigate this journey, and understand that they may need time and space to process their thoughts and feelings.

By following these guidelines, you can become the kind of adult that teenagers need in their lives – someone who listens, empathises, guides, and supports them as they navigate the ups and downs of adolescence. Remember, the impact you have on a teenager today can shape the person they become tomorrow.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

Share this article with a friend
Rochford SS4 & Southend-On-Sea SS2
Written by Gosia Grabowska, MNCPS (Acc.) Parenting, Family Issues, LGBTQ+, Couples
Rochford SS4 & Southend-On-Sea SS2

Gosia is a bilingual therapist originally from Poland. She loves to travel by train and is curious about people's stories and experiences. She is passionate about navigating relationships, supporting parents, and addressing LGBTQ+ and cultural diversity issues. Her sessions are available both online and in person.

Show comments

Find the right counsellor or therapist for you

All therapists are verified professionals

All therapists are verified professionals