Tips for Raising a Well Rounded Teenager

As my children move into high school and we start thinking more and more about college, I find myself worrying about raising a well rounded teenager.  Academics have never been a problem for my kids.  I am incredibly lucky that both my children were accepted into the gifted program early on in elementary school and good grades come fairly easily for them.

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So, what’s the problem?  As my kids get older,  the schools are starting to push more and more challenging materials at them.  You think that’s a good thing, right?  But the track they were heading down had them in college level courses by their Junior year in high school.  I decided to start putting on the breaks on this ‘academic rigor’ they were pushing us towards.  I began to realize that it is just as important to raise a well rounded teenager as it is to have 15 advanced placement courses on their high school transcript.  Colleges want to see not only academic success but also a well rounded teen and with too much academic pressure this just isn’t possible.

So, how do you raise a well rounded teenager in today’s competitive world of college admissions?  I’ve been doing some research and here are a few things that have stood out so far:

Tips for Raising a Well Rounded Teenager

And how to help your teen find the balance they need.

Tips for Raising a Well Rounded Teenager

1. Academics are important, obviously, but don’t let the focus be ONLY on doing well.  Encourage your teenager to take classes that expose them to new ideas and skills.  Languages, computer courses, public speaking, and other subjects outside of the ‘core’ curriculum can all help create a well rounded teen.

2. Encourage relationship building.  This is one area my son really struggles with since he is very much an introvert. (You can read about our struggles on that issue in my post ‘A Mom’s Take on Raising an Introverted Child‘).  Relationships that your teenager develops should be with friends (both boys and girls) as well as adults.  Encourage them to talk to teachers, your pastor, members of your church congregation, adults at volunteer organizations, etc.  They will have to feel comfortable with adults in order to successfully navigate college admissions and job interviews.

Tips for Raising a Well Rounded Teenager

3.  Make family time a priority.  Studies have shown that a strong family bond can play a crucial role in a child’s success in life.  Academic success, successful romantic relationships, and long term happiness are all effected by how close a teenager is to his or her family.  Make time to spend together as often as possible.  Turn off the electronics, go out for ice cream, or just sit down and watch a movie together.  Encourage a strong family bond now and your teenager will reap the rewards for years to come.

4. Encourage alone time.  For some kids (like my introvert) this isn’t a problem.  But for teenagers who thrive on attention, friendships, and constant activity you may have problems.  Teenagers do not need their lives planned out minute by minute.  So your kid has a free Saturday afternoon?  Don’t worry about it!  Let them learn how to fill their days without interference from you or help from their friends.

5. Teach responsibility.  This could be a job outside of the house or just a chore list to make your life easier.  Chores do not need to be paid, either.  Combine chores with family time and get the whole family involved on a Sunday afternoon yard cleanup.  Jobs for teenagers could include babysitting, pet sitting, and even tutoring.  Make sure you discuss proper money handling and budgeting when they start actually making money.

Tips for Raising a Well Rounded Teenager

6. Hobbies and Extracurricular Activities:  Every teenager is different when it comes to their likes and dislikes.  However, everyone should have some sort of ‘fun’ activity that they can do during their down time.  Whether that happens to be playing tennis, playing an instrument, reading, painting, or underwater basket weaving is up to each individual child.  Encourage them to try new things until they find the activity that suits them best.

7. Volunteer work: This is one area that I think colleges really like to see.  It isn’t always easy to find volunteer work for your teenager.  Scouting organizations, churches, hospitals and school clubs are all places to start looking.  This is one we are still looking into for my son.  I’m hoping to get him involved with our Community Supported Agriculture program this summer but we’ll have to see how that goes.

8. Focus on physical health:  Teenagers don’t really think about their physical health.  They are young and invincible at that age.  Try to model good eating habits, encourage them to get enough sleep, and get them involved in some sort of exercise.  Good habits now will serve them well into adulthood.

College is getting harder and harder to get into and instead of being ‘the smartest student’ or ‘the best athlete’ your teenager should instead focus on being a well rounded person.  Sure, being great at something is wonderful…but your teenager should have a life outside of that featured activity to really stand out.  Check out the Huffington Post for more information about what colleges look for besides academics.

Do you have any other tips for raising a well rounded teenager?

Diane Signature


  1. Finding balance can definitely be a challenge. It's good to learn it as a teenager so you can take those skills with you as an adult.
  2. I'm amazed that more isn't done to teach young people about physical health and nutrition. It's so important, and so many people seem clueless about it.
  3. Great tips! It is hard to find a balance when they have so much school work, but with only 1 1/2 more years left before my son goes to college, I want to make every moment count!
  4. Great post Diane. I couldn't agree with you more. All school and the area we live in seem to value now are academics and that is just a very small part of skills they will need in life!! Thanks for this great list and reminder to looks at the big picture. Happy New Year! Kim
  5. Great tips! Bookmarking and sending to my friends who are parents of teens.
  6. Grace Hodgin says
    I agree with you and as nice as it is to get ahead academically there will always be time and building those family relationships are so important. Loved reading your article.

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