Adolescence is not an event that suddenly happens overnight. The path your child takes throughout their emotional and physical growth is an ongoing process unique to each individual. Tweens can be as different from teens as infants are from preschoolers and kindergartners.
Find out what you can expect as you and your child get ready to traverse the coming years together.
During this time, your tween begins to transform into a teenager. Voices begin cracking and bodies begin changing. Parents can expect the following emotional and physical changes from their growing teens:
Physical, emotional, and developmental changes in your teen may grow and be more evident during the later years of adolescence. Here's what to expect:
Teens of all ages—including older adolescents—see their parents as their primary sources of support and advice regarding school, friends, and future employment. Of course, every teenager is an individual and there can be exceptions to the above.
Teens struggle with a variety of concerns and worries as they grow and develop. Some of the more common issues parents can watch out for and discuss with their teens include:
Adolescence is stressful, and peers, school, and the broader community can all contribute to your teen's feelings of frustration or anxiety. Other stressors are internal to the family—parental conflict or divorce, parental depression or physical health problems, and parent-child conflict. Still others are inherent—such as the teen's own temperament. It is not so much the type of stressor that causes problems, but the number of stressors.
Research suggests that most adolescents can cope with one, two, or even three stressors, provided none are especially severe or prolonged. When four or more stressors coexist, however, teens can get into real trouble. They may, for example, develop problems in school, behavior problems, or psychiatric disorders.
On the other hand, it's not good for teens to experience no stress during adolescence. It is only through experiencing challenges and overcoming them that teens develop confidence in their ability to do so. In fact, stress can help living things grow stronger.
Consider the difference between trees growing in a rain forest and trees growing in a desert. Because water is so plentiful in a rain forest, trees do not need to send their roots very deep. Consequently, even moderate winds can topple a tree in a rain forest. But to survive in a desert, trees must send their roots very deep in search of water, enabling them to withstand even very strong winds. Of course, if a tree goes too long without water in a desert, it will wither.
Teens can also benefit from limited amounts of stress. Too much stress can certainly cause problems, but the absence of stress can leave a teen feeling unable to handle the challenges of life.
Effective parenting requires that parents refrain from "rescuing" their teens too quickly whenever stress arises, while at the same time helping out when their teens experiences too much stress. Parents can do this by listening to their teens when they are stressed, exploring with them their options for overcoming the stressor, and expressing confidence that their teens can handle the challenge.
If, however, your teen starts to experience disruptions in his or her daily activities, such as difficulty sleeping or eating, this is a strong indication that your teen is being overwhelmed by stress. If so, you should step in to help out.