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
Teen brains are brains under intensive construction. The brain is busy sorting through the information it has collected and deciding what it will need in the future. 12-14 year olds have increased ability to reason and take great pleasure in these skills. They enjoy considering questions about meaning and purpose. Moral reasoning skills change too. Where once it was all about “fairness”, it now starts to be about “context”.
12-14 year olds often find their internal clock (their circadian rhythm) is “out of sync” with their school and homework schedule. Mornings can be hard to get through!
How Their Bodies Are Growing.
Early adolescence is a time of enormous body changes. Boys begin to grow facial hair, pubic hair, and their voices start to deepen.
Girls begin to develop breasts, wider hips, pubic hair, and most will start menstruating during this time. Many will experience a major growth spurt, and arrive at their adult height.
Both males and females are concerned with these changes and are worried of how others see them.
How Their Social And Emotional Selves Are Growing
Young Teens begin to spend a great deal of time thinking about their own identity and how they are seen by others. They worry about their body image, clothes, and their looks. They sometimes think that everyone else looks at them with the same intense self-critical way they look at themselves, and this can lead to feelings of pressure, and stress. They can seem moody towards others, especially their parents or caregivers. They may express less affection for their parents or caregiver, even though they still need their parents positive attention and support. They also begin to place more importance on their social relationships and judge themselves by their relationships with their peers.
Looking After Their Mental Health
Your appreciation and listening ear are very important to your 12-14 year old, even though they may not tell you so. Show confidence in their abilities, and be open to their ideas. This lets them know you are respectful of their increasing maturity.
Be patient. This can be a high conflict time, so choose battles wisely. Work with your youth to set and maintain reasonable limits.
Watch for signs of withdrawal or avoidance – from school, time with friends, preferred recreation activities, or from family. Address your concerns directly and seek support when needed.
Watch for signs of body dissatisfaction with both boys and girls. Provide information that can help them learn about body changes.
Seek mental health supports when you worry that your young teen is losing the struggle to maintain a healthy sense of self.
Some young teens will feel depressed or anxious in the face of new challenges. Some of these feelings are normal, but watch for whether they persist for more than a month, without obvious situational stressors. Sometimes use of drugs or alcohol can be a sign that a young person is trying to manage mental health difficulties on their own.
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