Children grow and change every year. This piece, written by the experts at Open Doors, is meant to help map out what to expect, and suggest ways to help them thrive as they meet new challenges mentally, physically , emotionally and socially.
How Their Minds Are Growing
Youth brains are undergoing major renovation, guided by a “use it or lose it” principle. Pathways in the brain that are not used begin to close up. It is very important that the brains of our youth are challenged. Dr. Jay Geidd, neuroscientist observes; “you are hard-wiring your brain in adolescence. Do you want to hard wire it for sports and playing music and math – or for lying on the couch in front of the television?”
The teen mind takes seriously the process of thinking issues put in front of it, but their choice making is also more influenced by the part of the brain that is stimulated by risk or pleasure. That is why they sometimes seem to make questionable judgment calls from an adult perspective.
How Their Bodies Are Growing
At this time most females have completed the physical changes related to puberty. Many find themselves dissatisfied with the natural increase in body fat that occurs post-puberty, and are self-critical of their bodies and appearance.
Males are still maturing physically by gaining muscle mass, strength, and height. They are also completing the development of their sexual traits. Boys who are slower to develop or are less athletic are sometimes self-critical.
Youth are aware of their sexuality and may have questions related to their sexual orientation.
How Their Social And Emotional Selves Are Growing
Parents often report that this is a time with less conflict than in early adolescence, but also that they spend much less time together. The challenging world of their peers, and a desire to form more complex and intimate relationships with peers, takes up a great deal of their time and energy. This is part of their preparation for independence and preparing for their future when they leave home to live on their own.
Youth are eager to form their own judgements and show independence as they define their own identity and values. When they seek advice, it is often from people outside of the family.
Looking After Their Mental Health
Support your child’s growing independence and identity . Take your youth’s opinions and concerns seriously; listen first and offer advice respectfully.
Encourage activities that help identify future goals—both recreational and vocational.
Negotiate together what level of structure will help your youth meet their goals— (i.e. school , curfew, dating, etc.). Agree to consequences in advance and stick to them.
Notice if moodiness or mood changes persist for more than a few weeks. Help your youth identify if their mental health is at risk, and support them in seeking help.
At this age, alcohol and drug use negatively affects mental development and can impair social development. Avoid being too casual about its use in teen years. Model responsible behaviour. Offer support and strategize to manage the pressures and impact of this issue on their lives.
Remain open and supportive of your child as they discover their sexuality and sexual orientation.
With every new stage in a child’s life, we have to rethink our approach to parenting, so we help our children and ourselves master new challenges. At Open Doors, we can help you make sure you get advice and support to help your family thrive through all stages of growth and change.Here’s how to get in touch with us: Carleton Place Office 40 Bennett Street 613-257-8260 Perth Office (By appointment only) 613-264-1415 Smiths Falls Office 88 Cornelia Street W. 613-283-8260 Toll Free 1-877-232-8260 www.opendoors.on.ca