Working Through the Teen Years

It’s human nature to react to change; some handle transitions easier than others. As children grow, the way they react and communicate with parents changes. During adolescence, kids are dealing with physical changes to their body and new emotions. They begin to relate to the world in a different way. 

These times of transition and growth cause anxiety for both children and parents. With knowledge, understanding, patience, and communication, you can work through the teen years with ease.

Pre-Teens (ages 10-13)

Pre-teens have concrete, black-and-white ways of thinking, according to Dr. Helen Waterman, DO, a pediatric physician with the American Academy of Pediatrics. 

“Things are either right or wrong, great or terrible, without much room in between,” Dr. Waterman explains. 

Pre-teens’ thoughts center on themselves and, as a result, they become self-conscious about their appearance and how others are perceiving them. There is an increased desire for privacy. Don’t be surprised if your tween begins to push their boundaries and explore ways of being independent, warns Dr. Waterman.

How to Help:

Strive for strong and effective communication by asking questions while being understanding and patient when answers are short. There will be times you don’t agree with each other, but try not to let these feelings lead to stronger conflict. Fights don’t solve problems; they start new ones.

In addition to empathetic conversation, Connected Kids: Strong, Safe, SecureTM suggests working with your child to create a space of their own, such as a bedroom or other designated area of the house. This will give them a physical space in which to create boundaries and take ownership.

Teens (ages 14-17)

The teen years bring an increased desire for independence. Teens may prefer the company of friends to family. They are very concerned about their appearance and peer acceptance.

According to the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, a teen’s brain is continuing to change and mature during middle adolescence. Their frontal lobes, which play a major role in decision-making, impulse control, and actions/consequences, are still in development and will continue to mature into early adulthood—the key reason there are differences in how teenagers and adults think. 

How to Help:

Honoring your teen’s independence and supporting their decision-making process will help establish you as a role model in their life. Viewing your child as a learning adult will help you form stronger, lasting bonds. 

Remember, you are still their parent and need to set clear boundaries with reasonable expectations. Work through your options together and keep your conversations positive and open.

As your teenager enters their early adult years, they will develop a stronger sense of their own individuality and identify their own set of values. According to Dr. Kenneth R. Ginsburg, author of Letting Go with Love and Confidence, children at this stage become more focused on the future but tend to base their decisions on the relationships they’ve formed with you and other close authority figures in their lives. 

“When our children know that we supported them to become independent, they will return to us for that interdependence that defines loving families well beyond childhood,” says Dr. Ginsburg.

Entering new phases and stages of life and parenthood can be trying at times. But forming strong bonds with your tween during periods of transition bodes well for years to come.