The Stages of Development: Preteens & Teens
This is often a time in children's lives when they are going through many physical changes. They may gain weight, grow taller, feel clumsy and awkward. Because their bodies are going through a lot of changes, it can be a difficult time for children. Answer any questions your child may have. Do not feel embarrassed if they ask something that you're not sure how to answer. Or, maybe you don't know the answer. If you are uncomfortable with answering questions, talk with your pediatrician (or let your child talk with him). Children can often be very sensitive about how they look at this stage of their life. Be a supportive parent.
This is the age when your child may have growth spurts which can cause physical discomfort such as headaches and joint pain. If your child complains too much of discomfort consult with your pediatrician. Sometimes, there may be other reasons for the discomfort. This is also the time when their hormones will kick in. Try and make your children comfortable with what is happening to them. They may not always want to discuss the strange feelings and sensations they are having, mostly because they don't understand them. Talking with your children about their changing bodies is the best way to put them at ease. There are some great books available on the teenage body. These books will cover all the physical changes and the emotional changes your child is experiencing. I would suggest you read the books first and decide which ones will best answer the questions your child may have.
By the time your children reach this stage in their lives, they will begin thinking about what they want to do when they leave high school. They might want to get a car (to establish more independence) or even a job. Some will wonder about college. This is often a difficult time for teenagers because they are not sure that they want to become adults. Many teenagers will suddenly fear leaving home and becoming independent. Some will think themselves invincible. This is a time of jumbled feelings. Try to keep your teenagers on the right track. Keep an open line of communication with them. This can be a time when your teenager experiences a fun and positive side of growing up or a negative and unsafe time. Too many young people get involved with reckless behavior at this time in their lives. Be aware of what your child is up to, who their friends are, and where they spend their spare time.
This is not the magical time when your child suddenly becomes an adult. Many children have not yet reached adulthood emotionally by 18. They are still struggling with who they are and their purpose in life. Your children will experience social strains at this point such as graduating from high school, leaving the safety of their home to explore college, or living on their own. They may also find that their high school friends will go off in different directions, leaving them behind. Without those friendships, they may feel temporarily lost. Again, this is all part of growing up. Try to be as supportive as you can. Realize that your child needs to go through this stage to mature into an adult. Guide your children when possible. Do not be too critical of what they choose to do with their lives.
by Wendy Greif
Wendy Greif is a mother and graduate of USF in Special Education. She has taught children with various disabilities in both South Carolina and Florida. Mrs. Greif operates an informational website for parents and caregivers of children and/or adults with special needs (http://www.specialneedschildrenandadults.com).