How Do I Deal With My 17-Year-Old Daughter?

Reviewed on 6/28/2021

Your 17-year-old daughter is on the cusp of adulthood. Deal with your 17-year-old daughter by creating a relationship with her, giving her space, set healthy boundaries, encourage her to express her individuality and using many other strategies.
Your 17-year-old daughter is on the cusp of adulthood. Deal with your 17-year-old daughter by creating a relationship with her, giving her space, set healthy boundaries, encourage her to express her individuality and using many other strategies.

As your child grows, parenting gets trickier. A 17-year-old daughter is already at the cusp of adulthood and often prefers to be treated like a grown-up.

A typical 17-year-old will display the following characteristics:

  • Feels awkward
  • Socializes more often
  • Tries to find their first job
  • Finds what they are passionate about
  • Has thoughts about dating and sex

Even though you have been friends since their childhood, things can change when they reach adulthood. So, it is better to connect with your 17-year-old daughter while you still can. It is the time to sit them down and have honest talks about sexuality, finances, career and consequences of lifestyle choices. The following are some things you, as a parent, can do to help your teenage daughter during this time:

  • At this age, you are creating your adult relationship with your daughter. She may not be self-conscious and on occasion, she may be happy to be out and to be seen with you. Going out to a movie or a concert with your daughter would be a good idea.
  • While giving your daughter space, you can do things for her, such as making her a cup of tea when she is studying or bringing her favorite muffin from the bakery.
  • There are intentional ways to maintain a healthy parent–teen relationship and help your 17-year-old daughter manage anger issues subtly.
  • The worst thing a parent can do is to avoid saying no for fear of upsetting their child. No can be said in firm and loving ways. Teenagers need healthy boundaries. Although they may kick and scream, on some level, they know that it means that you love them and they feel safe.
  • Daughters at this age are exploring and expressing their individuality and, to a degree, this is healthy for them.
  • You can start observing her and have small talk about little things, such as her classmates, sexuality and her day at school. Teenagers love to be in the spotlight, even though they act like all they want to do is to live alone on a planet. They desperately want someone to talk to, cry with and laugh with. Be that person because you are her parent.
  • Listen to your daughter without forcing unwanted advice on her, so she can discover what she thinks and stands for. Keep abreast of what she's up to and make sure she is safe without being overly intrusive or laying guilt trips on her for stepping further into her own life.
  • Encourage her to explore her independence, but make sure she knows you are in the background if she hits a wall. Think in smaller units of time when you look for bonding moments.
  • Your daughter may not want to go with you to a movie, but she might want to play a few hands of cards or join you for a walk with the dog. And, if there is a special event or family get-together, expect her to be there.
  • Talk to her, particularly if she seems sad or depressed. Ask her if she needs someone trained or better equipped to handle her mental stress.
  • Show interest in your daughter’s school and extracurricular interests and activities and encourage her to become involved in activities, such as sports, music, theater and art. Encourage your daughter to volunteer and become involved in civic activities in her community.
  • Compliment your daughter and celebrate her efforts and accomplishments. Encourage her to eat healthily, but never body shame your child.
  • Encourage your daughter to develop solutions to problems or conflicts. Help your teenager learn to make good decisions. Create opportunities for her to use her judgment and be available for advice and support.
  • If your daughter works, use the opportunity to talk about expectations, responsibilities and other ways of behaving respectfully in a public setting.
  • Talk with your daughter and help her plan for difficult or uncomfortable situations. Discuss what she can do if she is in a group where someone is using drugs, under pressure to have sex or is offered a ride by someone who has been drinking.
  • Encourage your daughter to get enough sleep and exercise and eat healthy, balanced meals.

Respect your 17-year-old’s need for privacy. Remember that being a parent does not give you the right to intrude on her privacy and personal boundaries. Be friends with her and focus on consistent bursts of togetherness. Be a quiet but constant presence in the background of your daughter's life. Don't take her distance personally and, most of all, don't give up on staying connected.

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References
WebMD: "You're Daughter at 17: Milestones." https://www.webmd.com/parenting/guide/daughter-17-milestones#1

Advocates for Youth: "Growth and Development, Ages 13 to 17-What Parents Need to Know" https://www.advocatesforyouth.org/resources/health-information/parents-16/

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