Teenagers (ages 13 to 17) Summary

The following is a summary of possible Teenager reactions to a caregiver's deployment followed by some helpful parenting ideas. For more in-depth information, check out our Typical Children's Behaviors and Helping Children Cope sections.

Anytime During the Deployment Cycle

Typical Teenager Behaviors

  • Regression to previous, outgrown behaviors.
  • Less able to control their emotional highs and lows.
  • More frequent headaches and/or stomach aches.

Parenting Ideas

  • Communicate with your teen and actively listen to their concerns.
  • Encourage teen to keep a journal of activities, goals, feelings and challenges.
  • Remain in control of your feelings.
  • Encourage "media-free" time.
  • Schedule time for yourself as the at-home caregiver.

Before Deployment

Typical Teenager Behaviors

  • Teenagers are often calm and accepting of the deployment.
  • May spend more time with peers and withdraw from the family.
  • Sometimes demonstrates an "I don't care" attitude toward parent's departure.
  • Argues more to avoid feelings of sadness.

Parenting Ideas

  • Talk openly with your teen about the deployment.
  • Emphasize to your teenager that their first priority will be school work.
  • Create a plan to stay in touch with each other through email, phone calls or even snail mail.
  • Create a discipline plan with the at-home care giver and your teenager.
  • Help your teenager identify family and friends they may turn to for additional support.
  • Create mementos with teen (i.e. take pictures, film a video, etc.).
  • Discuss with teen which school staff to tell about the deployment.

During Deployment

Typical Teenager Behaviors

  • Teenagers often willingly take on additional family responsibilities.
  • Often are protective of the at-home caretaker.
  • Becomes increasingly independent and confident.
  • May become angry and apathetic, or act out.
  • School grades may fluctuate.
  • Will want to spend free time with friends.

Parenting Ideas

  • Maintain routines and family traditions.
  • Be clear in your message that school is your teen's first priority.
  • Follow the discipline plan at home and be consistent.
  • Allow teen to have "down time" from school and family responsibilities.
  • Schedule quality time with your teen i.e., make dinner together, go shopping.
  • Encourage participation in extra-curricular activities.
  • Help teen stay connected to deployed parent.
  • As deployed parent, focus on positively supporting your teen and allow at-home parent to target discipline.

After Deployment

Typical Teenager Behaviors

  • Teenagers have become increasingly independent and mature during the deployment.
  • May seem indifferent to deployed parent's return and be withdrawn initially.
  • Reluctant to give up new found freedom and/or additional responsibilities.
  • Concerned or worried that they failed to meet your expectations.
  • Will test boundaries upon your return.
  • Aware of changes in a returning parent's demeanor and emotional functioning.

Parenting Ideas

  • Give teen time to acclimate during reunion.
  • If possible, talk about your deployment and the mission you accomplished.
  • Discuss with your teen any changes in routines, rules, and responsibilities that occurred during the deployment.
  • Slowly reintegrate into your teenagers life i.e., take them out to lunch, watch a sporting event together, meet teachers or coaches, etc.
  • If you need alone time, communicate to your teen "it's not them" as you readjust.

Red Flags for Possible Concern

Teenager Behaviors of Concern

  • High levels of aggression or violence.
  • Any mention of suicide or self-harm.
  • Total withdrawal or running away from home.
  • Significant change in school grades or interest in school.
  • Considerable change in appetite, mood or sleep patterns.

Parenting Ideas

  • Talk frankly about any concerns you have directly with your teenager.
  • Devise a plan (together) that will reassure you in regards to teen's safety.
  • Seek out additional support or help from a trusted friend, family member, or community organizations.
  • Talk to your doctor.
  • Schedule a behavioral health appointment for your teen.
  • Seek help immediately (call 911) with any life-threatening concerns.

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