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Ages 11 to 14 Years
We need to better understand adolescent developmental stages to help our preteen or teen as they mature. By becoming familiar with these stages, we will increase our competence in encouraging teens to establish their sense of identity.
- Teens are preparing to separate from the family physically and emotionally. They are in the process of developing their values.
- Teenagers must initiate this separation and often rebellion gives them the energy to do this. A teenager challenges rules and values as a way of establishing his or her identity and individuality.
- Adolescents may be rude or make fun of parents and other authority figures and not want to be with them. In a teenager's mind, defiance expresses autonomy and says he or she doesn't need parents.
- Due to body changes, the teen can have conflicting moods, marked by tearfulness, heightened sensitivity, sudden flare-ups, an increased need for physical activity and inappropriate laughter or giggling.
- Teens place importance on peers and how they fit in.
- Teens start relating to the opposite sex in a different way than they did when they were younger (where there were once friendships, romantic relationships and/or deeply felt negative emotions may surface).
- Teenagers have a heightened need for privacy. Experiencing privacy gives them a new sense of control and independence. They need privacy to test things out for themselves without parental input.
- Teens still need an adult to relate to, but in a different way than they did when they were younger.
Physical Changes (Puberty)
For girls, puberty begins around 10 or 11 years of age and ends about age 16. Boys enter puberty later than girls, usually around age 12 and ending at about age 17. Girls and boys usually begin puberty around the same time their mothers and fathers did. For girls, the following are physical changes that will happen in puberty, listed in the order they usually occur: body fat increases, breasts begin to enlarge, pubic hair grows, height and weight increase, first menstrual period occurs, hips widen, underarm hair grows, skin and hair become more oily and pimples may appear. The following are physical changes occurring in boys during puberty: Scrotum becomes darker, testicles grow larger, penis grows longer and fuller, pubic hair grows, breasts can get “lumps” and become tender, height and weight increase, muscles develop, wet dreams occur, voice cracks and gets deeper, skin and hair become more oily, pimples may appear and underarm and facial hair grow.
Social and Emotional Development
- Preteens and teens spend more time with peers and less time with family.
- Preteens and teens begin to form their identity by exploring different clothes, hairstyles, friends, music and hobbies.
- Moodiness is common as youth struggle to search for an identity.
- Preteens and teens push limits that adults put on them to assert their independence.
- Preteens and teens have mixed feelings about “breaking away” from parents. One day your daughter may want nothing to do with you, the next day she is constantly at your side.
- While experiencing emotional changes, youth may act out (for example, get into physical fights, use alcohol or other drugs or skip school), as a way of expressing their mixed feelings.
Tips for Parents
- Preteens and teens are sometimes embarrassed by their changing bodies and concerned that they are not developing at the same rate as their friends. Reassure your child that young people grow and develop at their own pace and that the changes are normal.
- Do not tease your child about pubertal changes.
- Explain the importance of good personal hygiene. Active sweat glands call for regular bathing and deodorant. Good dental hygiene is also important.
- Set reasonable and appropriate limits. Preteens and teens want guidance.
- When differences arise, listen to your child and try to understand his or her point of view.
- Choose your battles! Hold your ground on important issues such as grades and drugs, and let go of smaller issues such as hairstyles and clothes. If it won't matter a year from now, is it worth arguing over?
- Allow your preteen or teen to make more decisions as he or she proves the ability to use good judgment.
- If your child is acting out, talk to him or her to get to the heart of the problem and remember to actively listen to what he or she has to say. Whenever possible, help your child determine the choices and help guide them to make a decision.
- Get counseling for your child or the whole family if you believe it could help.
- Talk with other parents about your concerns, their parenting experiences, setting limits, etc.
Probably the most important things you can do to help your teen mature is to spend time with them and take an interest in what they say, do and feel. Knowing that you are there and care is reassuring to a teen and will help them gain self-confidence and self-esteem.