Tips for Teaching Children to Brush Their Teeth on Their Own

As children reach toddlerhood (i.e., age 1 to 3 years), they begin to increasingly show signs of independence. Their strong desire to complete tasks independently is often displayed in activities of daily living like getting dressed and brushing their teeth. Because young children do not always have the concentration or control to brush their teeth by themselves, parents need to find ways to encourage their child’s self-help skills while supervising their efforts. Consider the following tips to help teach your child about the toothbrushing process and to build their confidence as they learn to brush their teeth on their own.

Brushing Basics


Ensure your child has a soft-bristled toothbrush with a thick handle and a small brushing head. Your child may be able to choose from a variety of kid-friendly toothbrushes that are available in vibrant colors and have fun characters on the handle.


Select a toothpaste that contains fluoride and has a taste and texture that your child likes. If your child does not respond well to one toothpaste, try another with a different flavor.

Brushing Angle

For the outer surfaces and most inner surfaces of their teeth, teach your child to hold their toothbrush horizontally at a 45-degree angle. For the front, inner surfaces of their teeth, teach your child to hold their toothbrush vertically across their teeth. For the chewing surfaces, your child may lay the toothbrush flat across those teeth to brush.

Brushing Motion

Show your child how to brush along the line where their teeth and gums meet in short, circular strokes or long, up-and-down strokes. Both the circular and up-and-down techniques are acceptable, according to the American Dental Association (ADA).

Brushing Time

Watch the clock, set the timer, play a song, or use a mobile app to help keep your child engaged for at least 2 minutes while they brush their teeth.

Toothbrush Replacement

Replace your child’s toothbrush every 3 to 4 months, or replace your child’s toothbrush sooner if the bristles appear to be visibly frayed.

Brushing Expectations by Age

From birth to first tooth (around 6 months old), use a clean, damp washcloth or gauze to wipe your child’s gums clean after each feeding.

Upon the arrival of your child’s first tooth (around 6 months) to 3 years old, apply a smear of toothpaste (approximately the size of a grain of rice) to your child’s toothbrush and begin to brush your child’s teeth twice a day—once in the morning and once at night. Begin to gently floss between your child’s teeth when they have two teeth that touch.

When your child is between the ages of 3 years to 6 years old, apply a pea-sized amount of toothpaste to your child’s toothbrush, and brush 2 times a day for at least 2 minutes. Assist your child with their teeth brushing (and flossing) until they can rinse and spit out the toothpaste rather than swallowing it.

How to Teach Your Child to Brush Their Teeth

If your child has learned to rinse and spit out their toothpaste instead of swallowing the toothpaste (usually around 5 to 6 years old), it may be time for you to encourage them to brush their teeth on their own. Here are some techniques you can use to help your child learn to independently brush their teeth.

Break the process into small steps. Teach your child to brush their teeth in sections. Focus on the outer surface, the inner surface, and chewing surface of one quadrant (i.e., upper left, lower left, upper right, and lower right) for 30 seconds before moving on to the next quadrant.

Show and tell. Prepare your toothbrush with toothpaste and stand or kneel next to your child. You can face your child or both of you can face the mirror. Direct your child to copy your movements and the sections you are focusing on as you both brush your teeth together. You may use analogies like the train wheels moving across the train tracks.

Hold their hand. Wrap your hand around your child’s hand to help guide the way your child holds their toothbrush and the way they move the toothbrush across their gums and teeth.

Take turns. Encourage your child to brush their teeth first while you supervise them. Use your words to help guide them on where to brush. Let them know that you plan to “check their work” when they finish. Use the “checking” stage to brush the areas they may have missed.

Sing a song. Sing a song or create your own song to a familiar melody (e.g., Row, Row, Row Your Boat) to help explain to your child the steps for brushing their teeth.

Consider your child’s temperament and learning style when determining which teaching technique to use. Feel free to try different techniques or combine techniques until you find the model that works for you and your child. With your continued guidance, your child will establish a consistent oral health routine, maintain good toothbrushing practices, and prepare to brush their teeth by themself. When you teach your child how to properly care for their primary teeth, it can set the stage for the health of their adult teeth and their oral hygiene practices for years to come.

Additional Resources

The Give a Kids A Smile® Program in association with the ADA (American Dental Association, 2020) provides resource sheets for parents and caregivers. Here are additional healthy habits that they offer parents and caregivers to consider as they help their child maintain a healthy smile and oral health.

  • Begin taking your child to dental visits when their first tooth appears or by the time they turn 1 year old, whichever comes first.
  • Encourage your child to eat healthy foods (e.g., fruits, vegetables, lean meats) to protect their teeth’s health. Limit cavity-causing treats like candy, sugary beverages, sodas, snacks, and sticky sweets.
  • Encourage your child, who is at least 1 year old, to drink water between meals. The ADA suggests that water with the fluoride is the best drink for your child’s teeth.

The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control Division of Oral Health offers activities and resources for infants and children who are up to 4 years old. Find the resource here:

The ADA provides several resources to help you take care of your child’s teeth through their Mouth Healthy™ campaign. A few of these resources can be found at the following:


American Dental Association. (2020). Tiny smiles.

American Dental Association. (2022, October 7). Toothbrushes.

Early Childhood Learning and Knowledge Center. (2023, April 26). Brushing your child’s teeth.

Harrisburg Smiles. (2020, October 22). How to teach your child to brush their teeth—Your guide to the process.

Jana, L. A., & Shu, J. (2021, May 25). Let the brushing games begin.

Oraljel Kids. (n.d.). Six creative ways to get your kids to brush their teeth.

Shahangian, J. (2017, January 13). How do I get my preschooler to let me brush her teeth?

Setting Boundaries and Expectations

As your child becomes an adolescent and then a teenager, your relationship with them will likely fluctuate. To help maintain consistency in your connections with your child, you can create age-appropriate boundaries and expectations for them by engaging in conversations. Having open conversations with your child in which they can share their opinions and viewpoints regarding rules and limits can create a welcoming atmosphere. By ensuring these rules are obtainable and realistic, you can help your child be successful, build self-esteem, and prepare for the transition to adulthood!

To learn more, watch the Setting Boundaries and Expectations mini-booster module video, below, that was developed by Thrive!

The universal Thrive parent-education programs (i.e., Take Root, Sprout, Grow, and Branch Out), supplemental modules, and mini-booster modules are available for all parents for free at

National Teen Driver Safety Week October 15-21, 2023

Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for teens in the United States (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2022). Teen drivers speed, make mistakes, and can be easily distracted, especially if they have friends in the car. Parents can play an important role in helping their teens develop into safe and responsible drivers. In addition to providing supervised driving practice, parents and their teen drivers should have conversations about driving safety.

So, what safety issues should parents talk about with their teens? In honor of National Teen Driver Safety Week, this blog contains some important conversation topics and provides suggestions for how parents can encourage safe-driving practices.

Teen Driver Crash Statistics (CDC, 2022)

  • Crash risk is highest in the first year a teen has their license.
  • Fatal crashes are more likely to occur at night.
  • In 2021, 51% of the teen passenger vehicle drivers who died in crashes were not wearing their seatbelts.
  • The likelihood of teen drivers engaging in risky behavior triples when they travel with multiple passengers.
  • In 2021, almost one-third (32%) of all teen drivers of passenger vehicles involved in fatal crashes were speeding at the time of the crash.
  • In 2021, 19% of teen passenger vehicle drivers involved in fatal crashes had alcohol in their system.

Talk about Safe Driving with Your Teen

Talking to your teens about safe driving early and often, even before they reach driving age, can help to prevent their chances of being in an accident and could potentially save their lives. You may choose to start the conversation during National Teen Driver Safety Week, but you should consider continuing the conversation regularly (e.g., weekly) throughout the year. Your teen is listening, and your constant reminders about driving risks—and your clear expectations—will get through and make a difference.

Seat belts

Wearing a seat belt in a vehicle is one of the simplest ways for everyone to remain safe. Buckling up is the law, and fastening a seat belt is also one of the easiest and most effective actions an individual can take to reduce their chances of injury or death if they are involved in a car accident. Help your teen understand why seat belts are important and that they must be worn by everyone in the vehicle and on every trip. Make them aware of the consequences of not buckling up, such as getting tickets, losing driving privileges, or sustaining injury, or even death, in the event of a crash. It only takes a few seconds to buckle up, but this small action could save a life.


Your teen’s risk of having a fatal car crash increases with each number of passengers in the vehicle. Passengers can distract an inexperienced teen driver who should be focused on the road and the cars and pedestrians around them. Many states have laws that restrict the number of passengers who can ride in a car that is driven by a teen. Even if the state you live in does not have passenger restrictions, establish rules with your teen about who can ride with them and how many people they can have in their car at one time.


Distracted driving can be deadly. Remind your teen about the dangers of texting, dialing, or using mobile apps while driving. Require your teen to put their phone away and to turn on the “Do Not Disturb” or similar phone features when they are driving. Distracted driving isn’t limited to phone use—other passengers; vehicle, audio, and climate controls; eating; and drinking while driving are all sources of potential dangerous distractions.


Speeding is a safety issue for all drivers, and it can be especially dangerous for a teenage driver who lacks the experience to react to hazards or changing circumstances around their vehicle. Teens who are monitored closely tend to speed less. Set the expectation that your teen will obey the speed limit. They should be particularly aware of their speed during inclement weather (e.g., rain, snow, leaves falling). During these situations, they may need to reduce their speed in order to handle traffic stops or winding roads. Remind your teen to maintain enough space behind the vehicle in front of them to avoid a crash in case of a sudden stop.

Driving While Under the Influence

Consuming alcohol before the age of 21 is illegal, and alcohol and/or marijuana or other substance use and driving never mix—no matter your age. In fact, driving under the influence of any impairing substance, including illicit, prescription, or over-the-counter drugs, could be fatal. It is critical that teen drivers understand that driving impaired can also have legal consequences. They could face strict penalties, fines, or jail time, and they could lose their license if they are caught driving while impaired. Further, remind them that they will face additional consequences at home for breaking the rules they agreed to follow when they started driving.

Set Safe Driving Ground Rules

When your teen begins driving, establish expectations or rules that address common safety risks. Rules for your teen driver may include the following details:

  • Do not drive impaired.
  • Always wear a seat belt, and make sure your passengers do too.
  • Keep your eyes on the road, both hands on the steering wheel, and your mind on the task of driving.
  • Follow the posted speed limit.
  • Limit the number of passengers in your car.

You may want to make your rules more specific by stating what your teen will not do while driving (e.g., consume alcohol, text, dial or scroll on their phone, eat, drive at night) and you should outline the consequences for breaking the rules, such as a loss of driving privileges. You may also choose to create a parent-teen contract for safe driving and display your contract by the family car keys or near the front door.

Model Safe Driving

Model safe-driving behavior for your children by following good habits, such as using the turn signals or looking left-right-left before pulling out at an intersection, any time you drive them anywhere, even before they begin to drive. Make sure you refrain from grabbing for your cell phone, and buckle your seat belt before starting your car. Obey the speed limit, and keep your eyes on the road. Be consistent with the messages you tell your teen and your own driving behaviors.

Driving is a privilege. If your teen has difficulty following the rules, you may need to suspend their driving privileges and discuss your safety concerns. Safe teen drivers
can mean the difference between life and death—for themselves, their passengers, and others on the road.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2022, November 22). Eight danger zones.

Clearinghouse for Military Family Readiness at Penn State. (n.d.). Branch out. Thrive modules [Computer-based module].

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. (n.d.). Teen driving.

Adolescent Social Media Use

Recently published statistics indicated that, in 2018, 97% of youth in the United States between the ages of 13 and 17 interacted with social media apps (Mayo Clinic, 2022), and, usually, this interface occurred on their own devices. In fact, it is common to see youth this age interacting and engaging regularly with social media. So, is this increased usage of social media positive, negative, or does it have both qualities? Whether adolescents’ use of social media is helpful, harmful, or both is complicated, and the answer likely depends on several factors, such as your child’s age, maturity or developmental level, and/or self-confidence.

Adolescent outcomes from social-media usage can vary from person to person and experience to experience (Beyens et al., 2020). Your child may be using social media to continue, or enhance, connections with their peers. For example, your child may be sharing their new favorite song, discussing a homework assignment, or having other positive and meaningful interactions with another child. However, as a parent, you will probably want to be knowledgeable about and aware of whom your child is communicating with and how your child is communicating with them. For example, your child may, knowingly or unknowingly, be engaging in harmful interactions, like as a perpetrator or victim of bullying.

Let’s examine some of the benefits and dangers of adolescent social-media usage and consider how you can help your adolescent’s social-media experience be positive.

Adolescent Social Media Benefits

Healthy socialization

Developmentally, adolescents are at a stage in life when they begin to explore and understand where they fit socially into society. Social experiences become increasingly important and frequent as children move through their teenage years (Shah et al., 2019). Teens may often confide in one another during times of emotional distress or confusion. This interaction is not new to the social-media age, and, generally, it is not a bad situation. Using social media allows teens to have discussions and voice their thoughts and feelings in real time (Shah et al., 2019). In addition, they can share and apply pro-social behaviors and standards that can translate into offline social interactions. Furthermore, research has continually shown that social-media use can help adolescents make and keep friendships (Uhls et al., 2017).


Using social media can provide opportunities for adolescents to explore who they are as an individual, such as their values, needs, or goals, and determine how they want to present themselves to others. Some research has shown that adolescents who communicate online demonstrate higher levels of self-understanding (Uhls et al., 2017). Additionally, social media can give teens an avenue for self-expression. Research indicates that there is a connection between social-media usage and adolescents being able to express themselves in a way that feels true to themselves, and this, then, can increase youths’ levels of self-confidence (Kim et al., 2019).

Adolescent Social Media Dangers

Psychological challenges

As discussed above, social media can have a positive impact on child development. However, social-media usage also has the potential to have a negative psychological impact on children (Shah et al., 2019). Some of the more common negative consequences include the following:

  • Experience depression
  • Develop body image issues
  • Increase risky behavior
  • Feel anxious
  • Suffer loneliness
  • Experience suicide ideation


Cyberbullying refers to aggressive and harassing actions that an individual or group uses via electronic communication with the intent to harm or intimidate another person or group. Research indicates that victims of cyberbullying have an increased chance of developing depression or other maladaptive behavioral problems. Furthermore, digital applications offer an avenue for bullies to use as they exhibit harmful behaviors because they eliminate ways their victims can avoid them, they decrease the chance of bystander intervention, and they maintain online anonymity (Parris et al., 2022; Shah, 2019). In addition, victims of cyberbullying are often not the targets of in-person bullying (Parris et al., 2022), which means that parents cannot rely on in-person social interactions their child has as predictors of their child’s online experiences.

Some examples of cyberbullying include the following:

  • Engaging in harassment via instant messaging (e.g., direct messaging, wall postings, text),
  • Creating websites that target a specific individual,
  • Posting pictures or videos the victim would not want to have posted,
  • Producing threatening video content, and
  • Doxing (i.e., accessing and sharing a victim’s personal information found online with the intention of eroding the privacy and/or security of the victim)

What Can Parents and Caregivers Do to Ensure a Healthy Social Media Experience?

Promoting open and honest discussions with adolescents is one way to help these youth deal with many of the challenges they face in their lives—including social-media experiences. These conversations could happen regularly, so you are able to check in and follow any challenges your child may be having. You can help your child understand digital boundaries by explaining to your child what their online behavior is expected to be. Make sure you and child clearly understand and agree about what content and interactions are allowed based on your family’s rules. In addition, you will want to explain to your child how they can keep themselves safe while interacting with others online. Below, find a few resources that contain information on safety steps you can share with your child.

Earlier this year the American Psychological Association (APA) released their most current recommendations for adolescent social-media use. The APA is a premier scientific and professional organization that sets benchmarks and recommendations for the field of psychology. This report urges parents to ensure their youth engage in some type of “social media literacy training” (American Psychological Association, 2023). Social-media literacy training includes mental, emotional, and technical preparation that intends to promote positive social-media experiences and outcomes (Polanco-Levicán & Salvo-Garrido, 2022). There are learning activities, planners, tips, and conversation guides that parents and children can access. For instance, has several different social-media literacy resources and trainings that are tailored to different child-development stages and needs. Becoming social-media literate is only one of the APA’s recommendations for positive adolescent social-media usage.

A few of the additional recommendations given by the APA report include the following:

  • Be mindful of your child’s stage of development, and adjust usage, settings, and permissions based on this level of development.
  • Monitor what your child is doing on social media. Be sure to keep your child’s privacy in mind while doing this. Younger children will most likely need more supervision and instruction on how to use social media safely. As children mature, offer opportunities for your child to increase their digital literacy and gain confidence. Parents may wish to allow their child more privacy in their social-media usage as the child gets older.
  • Explain, in a developmentally appropriate way, and be clear about the associated family and/or legal consequences of engaging in social-media activities that encourage illegal behavior or other harmful and high-risk behaviors.
  • Monitor your child and be vigilant about supervising their social-media usage so you can help identify when social media is having a negative impact on your child’s mental health.
  • Establish family rules around social-media use (e.g., Family Media Plan) to prevent social media from interfering with your adolescent’s sleep or exercise.

A link to the full APA report, Health Advisory on Social Media Use in Adolescence, can be found below in the Additional Resources section below.

The Thrive Initiative offers web-based universal parent-education programming—Grow and Branch Out—and two supplemental parent-education modules—Adolescent Mental Health: Parenting to Wellness and Harmful Behaviors: Recognize. Respond. Repair —that can offer additional strategies for engaging in social-media use for adolescents and teens. You can find more about each program listed above by visiting the Thrive website at

Parents will likely want to understand the impacts that social-media use can have on their child’s development and health. Youth should be encouraged to explore and interact with the parts of social media that can be productive and healthy. On the other hand, there are dangers, and you and your child should discuss these dangers, so they can be avoided if possible. The digital landscape is constantly changing, which, makes it difficult to be aware of all of the areas and uses of social media, and new social-media apps are continually being developed and adopted. Therefore, to help and protect your child, engage in ongoing and honest conversations with your child.

Additional Resources

APA Health Advisory on Social Media Use In Adolescence

This offers a more in depth look at the APA findings and guidance mentioned above. The web page provides the key findings of the study and a detailed list of 10 recommendations for adolescent social-media usage. Family Media Plan

The Family Media Plan is a robust tool that helps families clearly establish expectations of media usage. Topics covered include agreed upon amount of screen time usage, how privacy will be managed, and expected online behavior.

Online Safety Fact Sheet

This resource provides parents and caregivers with an explanation of some of the negative impacts social-media usage can have on adolescents. It also provides platform-specific strategies and advice for parents regarding teen social-media use. Cyberbullying is a federal website that is provided and curated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The website offers several resources and information regarding bullying and cyberbullying. The cyberbullying portion of the website provides parents, caregivers, teachers, and individuals who interact with youth topics for discussion and strategies and tools that can be used to help reduce cyberbullying.


American Psychological Association. (2023, May 9). APA panel issues recommendations for adolescent social media use. Press Releases.

Beyens, I., Pouwels, J. L., van Driel, I. I., Keijsers, L., & Valkenburg, P. M. (2020). The effect of social media on well-being differs from adolescent to adolescent. Scientific Reports10(1).

Kim E. S., Hong, Y. J., Kim, M., Kim, E. J. & Kim, J. J. (2019).  Relationship between self-esteem and self-consciousness in adolescents: An eye-tracking study. Psychiatry Investigation, 16(4), 306-313.

Mayo Clinic. (2022, February 26). Teens and social media use: What’s the impact? Tween and teen health.,%2C%20Facebook%2C%20Instagram%20or%20Snapchat.

Parris, L., Lannin, D. G., Hynes, K., & Yazedjian, A. (2022). Exploring social media rumination: Associations with bullying, cyberbullying, and distress. Journal of Interpersonal Violence37(5-6).

Polanco-Levicán, K., & Salvo-Garrido, S. (2022). Understanding social media literacy: A systematic review of the concept and its competences. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health,19(14).

Shah, J., Das, P., Muthiah, N., & Milanaik, R. (2019). New age technology and social media: Adolescent psychosocial implications and the need for protective measures. Current Opinion in Pediatrics31(1), 148-156.

Uhls, Y. T., Ellison, N. B., & Subrahmanyam, K. (2017). Benefits and costs of social media in adolescence. Pediatrics140(Supp 2), S67-S70.

Communicating with Adolescents and Teens

By creating an environment that encourages open communication, parents can build a relationship with their adolescent or teen that is based on trust, respect, and understanding. The following video illustrates and explains a variety of strategies that you can use to communicate with your child honestly and openly. These strategies can include using I-statements, discussing daily needs, and learning different phrases to help ensure your child is clearly understanding your intent when you speak to them.  Utilizing positive communication strategies with your adolescent or teen may help everyone understand daily needs and expectations and avoid misunderstandings. In addition, creating a direct and honest pattern of communication can build an environment in which difficult or sensitive topics can be more easily broached and discussed.

To learn more, watch the Communicating with Adolescents and Teens mini-booster module video, below, that was developed by Thrive!

The universal Thrive parent-education programs, (i.e., Take Root, Sprout, Grow, and Branch Out), supplemental modules, and mini-booster modules are available for all parents for free at

Learning Through Failure: How You Can Help Your Child

When children are very young, parents and caregivers are responsible for their every need. During those early years, you likely developed a routine in which you could anticipate what your child wanted and when they wanted it, and you were usually able to meet their needs. However, as children grow and begin to explore the different environments around them, such as their home, school, or the outside area where they play, they learn from these surroundings and from the experiences they have in these settings. As this learning occurs, your child is gaining autonomy or independence and is learning how to make their own decisions. Although this can be an exciting time, parents may find this shift difficult, even scary, as they begin to let go, or step back, to allow their children to have these new experiences.

Parents want their children to be happy or content, and they hope their children will accomplish or meet many goals as they grow and become adults. In order to help your child be successful like this you must also encourage and allow them to build skills and resiliency through their own lived exploration and experiences! Having resiliency, or the ability to summon coping skills and find ways to address difficult or adverse situations, is essential in life as all people will face setbacks. So, how can you continue to help your child try, and maybe fail, in a way that will help them build that resiliency and help them learn to navigate their world?

Highlighted below are strategies and examples that may help you provide the space and opportunities your child needs to try, to maybe fail, and to succeed. These strategies can look different depending on the age of your child, so let’s look at a few scenarios.

Infants and Toddlers

As a child starts to walk, they begin to explore their world in a new and exciting way. Walking is a new skill for them, and you will likely watch them stand, wobble, fall, and, ultimately, try again over and over until they are successful. During this experience, your child will try, and will fail, but they are learning resiliency as they keep trying! So, remember, you may want to reach out and help them, but they need to learn to walk on their own.

How You Can Help: Practical Strategies

So, how can you help your child learn as they fail?

  • Use encouraging words with your child.
  • Offer them a smile, and show approval when they try and when they succeed.
  • Give a reassuring hug, or wipe their tears when they become frustrated.

With your help, they will learn that, even when they fall, it’s okay to get back on their feet and keep going, and they have someone to turn to in difficult times.

You can find more tips and strategies on how to encourage and support your 0- to 3-year-old child in Thrive’s Take Root program. To learn more or register for Take Root, visit the Thrive website here.

Preschool-Aged Children

At this age, your child may be learning how to communicate and play with other children their age. This could be a sibling, a new friend at the park, and even other children at the preschool they are attending. These new friendships will likely lead to conflict because every interaction they have may not be positive. However, they are learning important skills from these experiences, such as social and communication skills and empathy. They can refine these skills as they grow into competent and caring adults.

How You Can Help: Practical Strategies

Although your first instinct may be to interject and fix a situation for your child, try giving them time to figure it out for themself (if there is no threat to physical harm). You can let your child know that you are there and ready to support them, but giving them the chance to work out a disagreement with the other child can be helpful. If your child cannot navigate the situation themself, or they ask for help, try using these strategies.

  • Acknowledge their feelings.
  • Ask questions to gather information.
  • Restate the problem.
  • Navigate solutions together.

Using these steps could help your child feel heard while they are learning how to problem solve!

You can find more tips and strategies on how to problem solve with your 3- to 5-year-old child in Thrive’s Sprout program. To learn more or register for Sprout, visit the Thrive website here.

School-Aged Children

School-aged children will start learning new concepts at school such as math, reading, and spelling. Your child may be struggling with learn how to spell their weekly word list, and they may want to just give up. Seeing your child struggle may be hard to watch, and, even though you may have established strategies with them to help practice their spelling, they may refuse to do the work. As their parent, you understand the consequences of them quitting. In the end, they may fail the test and bring home a poor grade. Now, your child must learn about consequences – or how their actions affect outcomes.

How You Can Help: Practical Strategies

In this situation, the consequence will be that your child will learn that by not trying or working through a problem, they will receive a bad grade, which may have other negative repercussions. Consider using these strategies as you help them through this situation.

  • Listen to their explanation attentively.
  • Focus on and talk about how they are feeling.
  • Validate that you support their feelings.
  • Encourage them to set attainable goals that will help them reach their objectives.

They may even have suggestions for a solution that you didn’t think of!

You may feel tempted to reach out to their teacher, so your child may have a second chance. However, in this type of situation, this may not be a helpful tactic as you may teach your child that you can and will fix their problems for them. If you decide that reaching out to the teacher is warranted, include your child in the meeting and/or conversation, and use the situation as a problem-solving experience for them. Involving your child shows them that you and their teacher care about them and are interested in helping them learn and succeed. In addition, it could offer an opportunity for your child to contribute to how they can adjust their behavior and performance in the future!

You can find more tips and strategies for listening and reflecting with your 5- to 10-year-old child in Thrive’s Grow program. To learn more or register for Grow, visit the Thrive website here.

Adolescents and Teens

As your adolescent or teen explores their personal identity, they may be trying new activities such as sports or clubs in their school. This could include trying out for a part in the school play or a spot on the football team or running for class president. Let’s consider this last example. You may have watched your child work hard on learning what being class president means and what holding this position entails with regard to time and responsibilities. They may have spent hours preparing their speech; however, suppose they are not elected. This likely will be hard for them to deal with, and it may be hard for you to watch this setback. As the parent, though, you have a good opportunity here to discuss their feelings as they face disappointment.

How You Can Help: Practical Strategies

Here are some strategies you might try as you help your child cope with this situation.

  • Validate their feelings by listening to them talk about their disappointment.
  • Acknowledge their feelings, and allow them time to have those hard feelings.
  • Ask your child questions about the situation.
  • Restate what you hear to ensure you both fully understand the situation and to be sure your child knows they are being heard.
  • Tell them about a time when you faced disappointment. They may not be ready to hear about this yet but you can help them see that even adults face and overcome disappointment. Explain to them how you handled the situation.
  • Discuss with your child how they want to move forward with regards to the situation. This collaboration and communication can allow your child to see you, the parent, as someone who has faced these big feelings and setbacks and has moved on. Communicating can also encourage your child to try again since they know someone close to them who has experienced something similar!

You can find more tips and strategies for communicating with your adolescent or teen in Thrive’s Branch Out program. To learn more or register for Branch Out, visit the Thrive website here.

As uncomfortable as it may be, experiencing failure is a part of life. Everyone can learn from mistakes and missteps, and children are no different. Remember, times of failure can be opportunities for your child to learn not only how to fail but how to learn from those failures.


Arky, B. (2022, August 18). How to help kids learn to fail. Child Mind Institute.

Haelle, T. (2016, May 6). How to teach children that failure is the secret to success. Shots Health News From NPR.

Howard, J. (2015, November 30). Teaching children it’s ok to fail. PBS Kids for Parents.

Adolescent Mental Health: Parenting to Wellness Available Now!

Adolescent Mental Health: Parenting to Wellness is now available! This online supplemental parent-education program offers support to parents and caregivers of adolescents who experience mental health challenges.

Parents and caregivers want to see their children grow up to be happy and productive adults. Good mental health is a critical component of reaching this goal, and having good mental health is as important as having good physical health. Assessment and treatment of mental health conditions can provide children and their families with information and strategies they can use to manage symptoms, learn coping skills, and strive for their most meaningful life.

Adolescent Mental Health: Parenting to Wellness defines and explains common disorders that parents and caregivers may be navigating with their adolescents and introduces skills and strategies they can use to help support their children. This supplemental module covers when to seek help, how to seek help, what to expect when you do seek help, how to offer support to your child, and how to find support for yourself.

This supplemental module builds on information and strategies discussed in the Thrive Branch Out parenting program, which provides parent education for parents and caregivers of adolescents who are 10 to 18 years old. Therefore, it is recommended that you participate in the Branch Out program prior to using the supplemental module.

You can gain immediate access to the Branch Out and Adolescent Mental Health: Parenting to Wellness parent-education programming by clicking on the appropriate link listed below!

Communication: The link to healthy choices for teens

As a child ages and enters their teen years, parents may find it more difficult to talk to them about making healthy choices. This may be because children, at this age, are beginning to make their own decisions about what matters most to them, including choices that affect their health and well-being.

So, as a parent, how can you develop a pattern of communication to help your teenager realize that making healthy and safe decisions about their well-being, including recognizing and avoiding risky behaviors, eating healthy, exercising, and getting enough sleep, is important?

Intentionally create an environment that promotes trust and communication.

Plan to have regular check-ins with your child to discuss daily needs and how those needs can be met. Check-ins can address simple needs like who is picking your child up from school that day or taking them to practice. Those interactions can help create an environment in which your child feels comfortable approaching you, and your child’s feeling of safety may, then, lead to discussions around difficult topics and situations.

Spend quality family time together. Plan time for your family to have fun and enjoy each other – go for a hike, play board games, or plan a vacation together.

Create routines and rituals that emphasize your love, respect, acceptance, and support of one another. Participating in routines, rituals, and shared activities can generate conversations and offer you opportunities to use positive communication skills to encourage your child, promote family togetherness, and create memories.

Establish boundaries and guidelines that will help cultivate open discussions. Boundaries can help you and your child understand and learn positive communication skills. For example, you and your child can negotiate rules and expectations. However, let your child know that safety issues, like not being allowed to go for a run outside after dark, are not negotiable.

Use positive language to avoid being argumentative.

Use I-statements. I-statements help your child understand what you are feeling without making them feel judged. For example, “I am concerned about your health because you don’t eat anything until dinnertime.”

Be mindful of your non-verbal language.

Body language. Make sure your gestures, facial expressions, posture, and eye contact match what you are saying.

Paraverbal language. Consider the tone of your voice, the rate of the gestures, the words you say, and the amount of eye contact you use to help your child understand the true intention of what you are saying.

Actively listen to your child.

Be present and limit distractions. Put down your phone, turn off the television, or stop doing the laundry, and give your child your undivided attention. Showing your teen that you care about them and what they say is important is a great way to promote the trust that is needed to create and maintain a positive parent-child relationship.

Listen with intention. Focus on the moment – don’t think about your response or other issues that may be occurring that day – and don’t assume you know what your child is going to say. Just listen.

Withhold judgment. When listening to your adolescent, do not make immediate judgments on their words or actions – listen to the whole story. Your child should feel that their thoughts and feelings are valid and deserve consideration.

Clarify what your child is saying by paraphrasing their words. When you’re communicating with your adolescent, sometimes what you mean and what your child hears are two different things. Or vice versa, sometimes what your child means and what you hear are two different things. Practice this skill with your child by clarifying what was said through repetition. For example, “What I hear you saying is you can’t get to bed on time because you have too much homework to do.”

Integrating these strategies and skills into your interactions with your child can help you build a respectful pattern of communication in your parent-child relationship. By doing this, you may find it easier to talk with your child about topics like making healthy and safe decisions. Remember, change doesn’t happen overnight. Continue to work on your communication strategies with your teen and practice them daily to help create and maintain open and positive communication in your parent-child relationship.