Parents of adolescent children need to understand the significant changes that happen to a young girl or young boy as they move through adolescence that can make them very self-conscious, sensitive, and worried about their own body and identity.
This developing stage of life also includes:
1) the ability to think abstractly and grasp higher math concepts, and develop moral philosophies, including rights and privileges.
2) begin to separate from parents and seek their own identity.
3) build satisfying relationships, and may value friends over family.
4) explore who they are, and their purpose in life.
“Adolescence is the period of transition between childhood and adulthood. It includes some big changes—to the body, and to the way a young person relates to the world. The many physical, sexual, cognitive, social, and emotional changes that happen during this time can bring anticipation and anxiety for both children and their families. Understanding what to expect at different stages can promote healthy development throughout adolescence and into early adulthood.”1
How Adolescents Think, Feel and Behave
“Adolescence marks the transition from childhood into adulthood. It is characterized by cognitive, psychosocial, and emotional development. Cognitive development is the progression of thinking from the way a child does, to the way an adult does.”
“There are 3 main areas of cognitive development that occur during adolescence. First, adolescents develop more advanced reasoning skills, including the ability to explore a full range of possibilities inherent in a situation, think hypothetically (contrary-fact situations), and use a logical thought process.”
“Second, adolescents develop the ability to think abstractly. Adolescents move from being concrete thinkers, who think of things that they have direct contact with or knowledge about, to abstract thinkers, who can imagine things not seen or experienced. This allows adolescents to have the capacity to love, think about spirituality, and participate in more advanced mathematics”. 2
“Although our brains continue to change throughout our lives, the adolescent years are a period of profound cognitive as well as biological, social, and emotional transformation.”
“At the beginning of puberty, neurons (brain cells) are gaining and losing up to 25 percent of their connections each week. By the time we reach adulthood that number drops to 10 percent.”
“This rapidly changing adolescent brain is especially sensitive to the social environment during this period of development. This makes the adolescent years an especially rich time for experiential learning about social respect, decision making, and dealing with emotions. It’s also a key period for building resilience, even after earlier hardship. Heightened emotions during these years make adolescence a rich time for developing interests, passions, and meaningful goals.” 3
“It’s vital to understand that inside a teenager’s brain, the amygdala, which is the part of the brain responsible for emotional reactions, is developing ahead of the frontal cortex, which is the part of the brain responsible for rational decision making.”
“This is true throughout the two stage of adolescence identified by child development experts – early adolescence (middle and early high school) late adolescence (late high school and beyond) – and can account for much of the behavior which teachers and parents find challenging.” 4
Why the Bad Choices and Behavior?
“Brain development continues after physical maturity, and the prefrontal cortex (the source of good decision making, essentially) usually does not fully develop until the mid-twenties.”
“They struggle with seeing an issue from someone else’s point of view or considering others’ feelings. This isn’t a character flaw; while they are more capable of abstract thought than before, their frontal cortexes are still developing. It can make them more susceptible to bad influences, though.”
“This period is also characterized by feelings of omnipotence and immortality, leading to increased risk-taking. They are rewarded by social stimuli associated with peer groups and by taking exciting risks, and these rewards tend to outweigh logical thinking or delayed gratification.” 5
Dealing with Your Struggling Adolescent
“The teenager’s quest to become independent is a normal part of development. The parent should not see it as a rejection or loss of control. Parents need to be constant and consistent. They should be available to listen to the child’s ideas without dominating the child’s independent identity.’
“Although adolescents always challenge authority figures, they need or want limits. Limits provide a safe boundary for them to grow and function.” 6
If your adolescent son continues to struggle with bad behavior at home and at school, risky activities that defy normal boundaries, or shows signs of distress over body image, including depression and anxiety, look for trained professionals who can help you and your teen heal and restore your relationship.
Vision Boys Academy Helps Boys ages 8-12
In addition to out-patient treatment, and counseling, your young boy, ages 8–12, may also benefit from enrollment at an all-boys school like Vision Boys Academy, where he can avoid the additional stress of co-ed distractions, and negative peer pressure.
We look forward to speaking with you!
Please call us today. (417) 246-1114
2 Adolescent Psychosocial, Social, and Cognitive Development…https://pedsinreview.aappublications.org/content/34/8/354