“Teenagers don’t have to be scary:” An inside look at expanding support to the teen years

A recent conversation with Lindsey Clopp, MSPH and teen expert consultant, sheds light on the transformative power of supporting the parents of teens and adolescents.

Support surrounding birth and early childhood has proliferated, but parents have largely been left to fend for themselves as the teen years approach. This largely reflects the stereotype of teens pulling away when research actually shows parents’ greatest impact on a child’s development isn’t during the baby or toddler years but right around adolescence.

Parents and caregivers have long braced themselves for the teen years. It can be a rollercoaster ride marked by fear and anxiety over the pitfalls a child may stumble across—everything from bullying to academic pressure to substance use.

In the past decade, however, many worrisome teen behaviors like drinking-and-driving and school fights, have actually moved in a positive direction. But alarmingly, teen depression and anxiety have seen a sharp rise. There is no single explanation, but the Covid-19 pandemic has contributed to these increases. A recent exploration of potential causes notes: “Outwardly, teens are growing up slower; but online, they’re growing up faster.” Our world is undergoing dramatic shifts in many respects, leaving today’s parents and young people to chart a new course.

While recent statistics are bringing attention to urgent challenges facing teens and their families, some of the underlying forces at play—the hypercharged physical, cognitive, and emotional development of the adolescent and teen years—remain unchanged. What is changing, however, is the recognition that teens need their parents more than ever, and parents and their families can benefit from greater support.

With the addition of Cleo Teens, we’re at the forefront of providing transformative holistic family support. Lindsey Clopp, MSPH and teen expert consultant, lets us in on how Cleo’s model of personalized support is scaling and adapting to include families with teens.

Adolescents and teens can be a doozy for a reason

“Adolescents are different than any other type of human,” says Lindsey. She goes on to explain: “They’re going through one of the biggest brain changes that anybody goes through in their entire life, so our teen product is largely about building empathy in parents for what a teen is going through and not trying to fix them or their behavior.”

Most parents (perhaps by design) can’t fully remember what it felt like to be a teen. As Lindsey describes, “It’s important to show parents we’ve all been through it. These are the things that teens feel, so how can we build empathy and understanding around that? How can we manage our own reactions to things so that we’re not playing into triggering behavior but creating a safe space for parents and the family to come together and have positive conversations?”

“Teenagers don’t have to be scary. They’re actually really cool if you create a place where it’s safe for them to be themselves.”

Lindsey Clopp, MSPH and teen expert consultant

Parents don’t know everything

When it comes to uncomfortable and difficult topics, in particular, parents are often at a complete loss. Lindsey points to the example of sex education, an area in which she has direct experience: “Schools think parents are talking to their kids about it. Parents think the school is talking to their teens about it.” What happens more often than not is that no one is talking about it. In the absence of reliable information, teens turn to their friends or more dubious sources and parents have no idea where to refer their kids for reliable and evidence-based information.

Given these common information voids, Lindsey explains “It was really important to get clear on [Cleo’s] philosophy and approach and be okay with being the ones to take responsibility for things that are awkward or feel icky for parents to talk to their kids about.”

Our expertise is in our people

As Cleo prepares to support a wider range of families through more diverse needs, we’re providing additional training to our Guides as well as bringing on new Guides and Specialists with experience and expertise that align with the unique challenges of parenting teens. Our new teen Guides come to Cleo from a variety of disciplines—school counseling, child psychology, sexuality and gender education—but they are all attuned to adolescent and teen development and the necessity for an empathy-based approach.

Emphasizing the adaptability of Cleo Guides, Lindsey says “Cleo Guides’ core competency is understanding parents’ needs and supporting those needs at any stage of the journey with empathy and compassion.”

View the on-demand webinar, The teen years have arrived!, to learn more about our expanded support for families.