8 Things Your Teen Cares More About Than School and Why They Matter

It may feel like your teen has the wrong priorities, but sometimes their attention is drawn away from school toward legitimate opportunities for growth.  

Pop culture

Teenagers may be tons more interested in new music, movies, memes, videos, and apps than you can fathom. That’s because teens are wired for learning their group’s cultural norms. Social learning is one of the main tasks teens are supposed to tackle. They absorb a great many social insights from consuming pop culture constantly.

Let them enjoy music, movies, internet, and technology, but only in balance with the other aspects of a healthy life: exercise, family time, sleep, and responsible work/academics. 


Teens, especially young teens, care a lot about their social lives. In fact, their brains are wired to focus more on the social group than just about any other area of their lives. Teens will use the tools they develop in their social group to find and connect with a community of people throughout adult lives. It’s more important than it seems. 

Take the social life seriously, but don’t let it overshadow family life.


Most adults look back on the teen dating years with a chuckle and an eye roll. Teen dating can seem silly, and like a big waste of time. But teens are practicing the precursor skills that will lead them to healthy adult relationships. Communication, conflict resolution, and assertiveness are all skills teens utilize in their dating lives that they’ll need in place when they find secure adult dating relationships. Adolescent dating is the laboratory where they learn these skills. 

See the value in young-love, but limit opportunities for physical intimacy and discourage serious long-term commitments when teens are too young.


Remember when you were a teen? If you were like me, you were constantly either headed off to see friends, or talking to someone on the phone. Well, texting is your teen’s version of those same behaviors. Through text, teens can talk and chat with friends from the comfort of, well, anywhere. Texting it a vital component of your teen's social connection and growing skill set, which will serve her well through out adult life.

Let her text, but not during family dinners. Friends are important, but should not overtake other important aspects of a healthy life.


Your teen would much prefer to hang out at dance practice than write her essay, and that’s normal. Extracurricular activities may seem like simple “fun,” or even just a way to pad the college resume, but your teen benefits more from organized social activities than from just relaxing with friends. Cooperation, following complex directions, working as a team… Organized activities support more extensive skill set, beyond what they learn in classes.

Accept that extracurriculars provide excellent learning opportunities, and let them enjoy them (but they still have to finish the homework).


Your teen is sleepy for the first half of the day. If given the option, he wants to sleep until 2pm. When he must get up early, he doesn’t even hear his alarm clock. And yet he won’t go to sleep at a reasonable hour. Teenagers often have an altered sleep schedule. Additionally, all those growth spurts can be exhausting. Their brains want to stay up late and sleep in late. Unfortunately, the rest of the world gets up and moving at daylight, so your teen often needs to adjust.

Let your teen rest when it’s a reasonable option. Sleep is important for restoration and learning, and he needs to catch up when he can.


Your teen is hungry. Sometimes hangry. Not only are teens growing physically, they are often physically very active, and the changes in their brains require quite a bit of fuel. Teens need healthy nutrition, but they still need to be fed often and in large quantities and they sometimes need more Calorie dense foods than adults need.

Stock up on grab-and-go snack foods like fruit, nuts, and yogurt, and stop worrying about the sheer volume of food your teen consumes, as long as she’s active.

Physical appearance

Your teen worries about how she looks. Her hair, her body, her skin… She is concerned about all of it. Grooming becomes increasingly important to a teen, as they navigate peer culture and try to fit in. 

Offer tools – like skin products, a haircut at a salon, or a nutrition consultation with the family physician, but be careful not to criticize. You can do more harm than good in this arena. 

Posted on August 1, 2016 .