Adolescence is a challenging period for children and their parents
Three distinct stages of adolescence - early, middle and late - are experienced by most children, but the age at which each stage is reached varies from child to child even within the same family. These different rates of growth are seen in three distinct areas: physical, intellectual and social/ emotional. For this reason, adolescents should be treated as individuals, and levels of responsibility should be adapted to each particular child.
It’s not always fun for parents, but it is true that teenagers learn who they are by experimenting with and deciding about who they are not. During early adolescence they may widely vary their dress and/or tastes in music; develop a fascination for a best friend’s family and their traditions; or even experiment another religion. When young people do this, it does not mean that their parents have not been clear in expressing their values but only that before teens are ready to adopt any values, they usually want to “test drive” others. Parents can best deal with this by modeling their own fair and humane values and continuing to listen to and learn about their teens.
- Gaining a sense of maleness or femaleness is an important stage of development. Both boys and girls need a period of time in which most of their activities are with members of their own sex.
- Membership in groups is important to the pre-teen. Scouts, athletic teams and church groups are some ways of meeting that need.
- Having a hero or an adult to look up to is also necessary during this time. Special people outside the family, as well as relatives can be helpful.
- Puberty brings increased interest in sex 1. Curiosity about sexual matters starts in this developmental stage, so it is important that accurate information be made available. Preteens have new feelings about their own bodies; when we give them access to information, they can find answers there rather than in relationships with members of the opposite sex.
- Special athletic, artistic, academic, or musical talents often start at this stage. Areas of potential success should be encouraged and supported as much as possible as a means of helping the child to develop a good self-image.
- Physical – Their bodies are growing and changing; they have a new physical self to get used to. There are also hormonal changes, which the youngster cannot control, that lead to abrupt “ups” and “downs” in mood and feelings of vulnerability and irritability.
- Intellectual – They begin to think more abstractly as adults and yet their emotions are often so intense that their thinking lacks objectivity. They become concerned with justice and equality. This critical eye on society also often leads to a judgmental eye on parents.
- Social and Emotional - They are changing their self-concept and developing a sense of identity. That includes separating from parents, forming new and stronger identification with peers, establishing relationships with the opposite or same sex and choosing and pursuing career goals.