Developmental milestones of adolescents
It is important for parents to know that teenagers go through stages of adolescence and to understand that each stage implies physical, emotional, social, mental and cognitive changes.
A close friend observes that her 12-year-old son spends less time at home and hangs out most of the time with his friends. When she confronted her son about it, he tells her frankly, “Mom, I’m already a grown-up! I don’t want to just stay at home.” Hearing this, she wanted to laugh and cry at the same time. .
How many of you feel like you do not understand your kids anymore because it is almost as if they are growing apart from you? They no longer stay at home as they used to when they were still little children. In the past, they would always ask you for things they need. But now, they have started to become independent.
Well, it’s high time for parents of adolescents to understand what their children are going through and to support them. It is important for parents to know that teenagers go through stages of adolescence and to understand that each stage implies physical, emotional, social, mental and cognitive changes. The three stages are early adolescence which occurs from 11 to 13 years old, middle adolescence from 14 to 16 years old and late adolescence which is from 17 years old and above. The developmental milestones of each stage involve:
With the onset of puberty, teenagers will undergo physical changes such as sudden and extreme growth, appearance of pimples, development of body odour, appearance of pubic hair, breast development and onset of menstruation for girls, and voice change, appearance of facial and body hair and semen ejaculation for boys in the early adolescence stage. At this stage, they will start to become more conscious about how they look. It is also at this time when girls will have eating problems because they become too conscious about getting fat. As they go through middle adolescence, they will attempt to experiment with different images. But they should be able to accept their physical image by the late adolescence stage. It is believed that boys who mature late and girls who mature early have difficulties in accepting their physique while boys who mature early and girls who mature late more likely have positive self-image.
At the start of the early adolescence stage, teens will focus on themselves. They will become more self-conscious and will think that everyone is looking at them and will easily feel embarrassed. They will also experience mood swings due to the presence of growth hormones. It has been observed that more teens easily feel sadness or depression at this point which could cause low grades in school or involvement in alcohol or drug use, and premarital sex. It is also at this point when they will show less affection to their parents and break away from their influence as they attempt to achieve independence. By the end of the late adolescence stage, teenagers should be able to resolve issues of their self-identity and independence.
As teens try to establish their independence from their parents, they will become interested in maintaining friendships with other teens. They will also take interest in joining peer groups. So, at this point in their lives, they will more likely be influenced by their peers in their daily choices. This might also mean spending less time with you as their parents. Aside from this, they might experiment with sex during the middle adolescence stage because of their curiosity towards it during the early adolescence. When late adolescence stage occurs, they will become interested with the opposite sex and develop intimate relationships with them.
Mental and Cognitive Development
Girls and boys will manifest increased abstract thinking skills and increased problem-solving skills. Females will excel more in verbal skills while males will have more advantage in mathematical skills. Hence, they will become more analytical, principled, and aggressive and will verbally express their feelings and thoughts. By the late adolescence stage, teenagers should become more concerned with their education and future career plans.
What Parents Can Do
With all of these overwhelming changes that are taking place, teenagers will really find it difficult to adjust. But if their parents will be there to understand, guide and support them, they will be able to adjust smoothly and become better individuals. Thus, as parents you should maintain an open communication with your children. Talk to them about these things even before they reach the adolescence stage. Talk to them about their concerns and about tough issues. Listen to them. Show interest in their activities by asking them. Encourage them to open up to you. Respect their opinions and their privacy. Recognize their endeavours and achievements. Guide them to make intelligent choices. You should also spend time eating meals with your children and in doing other things you enjoy. As far as possible, get acquainted with your child’s friends.
These are only some of the things that we, parents can do for our children. Moreover, the adolescence stage should remind us that we should spend more quality time with our children while they are still young because time will come when they will no longer want to spend time with us. So prepare them and take every opportunity before it is gone.