Also known a the Interdependent Stage
During the early part of adolescence there are many physical, mental, emotional, and social changes going on. We know about the hormonal changes; boys grow facial and pubic hair and their voices deepen, girls grow pubic hair and breasts, and start menstruating.
At this age, teens make more of their own choices about friends, sports, studying, and school. They become more independent, with their own personality and interests.
Some changes younger teens go through are:
- Emotional/Social Changes
- More concern about body image, looks, and clothes.
- Focus on self, going back and forth between high expectations and lack of confidence.
- More interest in and influence by peer group.
- Less affection shown toward parents. May sometimes seem rude or short-tempered.
- Anxiety from more challenging school work.
- Eating problems sometimes start at this age.
- Mental/Cognitive Changes
- More ability for complex thought.
- Better able to express feelings through talking.
- A stronger sense of right and wrong.
- Many teens sometimes feel sad or depressed which can lead to poor grades at school, alcohol or drug use, unsafe sex, and other problems
Experts say :
- Show affection for your teenager. Spend time together doing things you enjoy.
- Respect your teenager’s opinion. Listen to him without playing down his concerns.
- Encourage your teenager to volunteer and become involved in civic activities in her community.
- Encourage your teenager to develop solutions to problems or conflicts.
- Help your teenager learn to make good decisions.
- Create opportunities for him to use his own judgment, and be available for advice and support.
- If your teenager works, use the opportunity to talk about expectations, responsibility, and other aspects of behaving respectfully in a public setting.
- Talk with your teenager and help him plan ahead for difficult or uncomfortable situations. Discuss what he can do if he is in a group and someone is using drugs, under pressure to have sex, or offered a ride from someone who has been drinking.
- Respect your teenager’s need for privacy.
- Encourage your teenager to get enough sleep and exercise, and to eat healthy, balanced meals.
- Encourage your teenager to have meals with the family. Eating together will help your teenager make better choices about the foods she eats, promote healthy weight, and give family members time to talk with each other.
For more information on adolescent mental health, visit http://www.nimh.nih.gov/healthinformation/depchildmenu.cfm.
For information on healthy eating and exercise for children and teenagers, visit http://kidshealth.org/teen/food_fitness/.
Being a Parent
Believe it or not, even though it seems as if your teen seeks independence, trust and support from you is important too. Experts say you need to be honest and direct with your teenager when talking about sensitive subjects such as drugs, drinking, smoking, and sex.
Encourage your teenager to get exercise. Eating together helps teenagers make better choices about the foods they eat, promotes healthy weight, and gives your family time to talk to each other.
Other tips include:
- Meet and get to know your teenager’s friends.
- Show an interest in your teenager’s school life.
- Help your teenager make healthy choices while encouraging him to make his own decisions.
- Respect your teenager’s opinions and take into account her thoughts and feelings. It is important that she knows you are listening to her.