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Growth & Development: 12-15 Years

Early adolescence is a time of many physical, mental, emotional and social changes. Hormones change as puberty begins. Young teens might be concerned about these changes and how they are looked at by others. This will also be a time when your teenager might face peer pressure to use alcohol, tobacco products, and drugs, and to engage in sexual activities. Other challenges can be eating disorders, depression, learning disabilities, and family problems. At this age, teens make more of their own choices about friends, sports, studying, and school. They become more independent, with their own personality and interests. Although they may want to make more decisions on their own, early adolescents still need guidance and support in their choices.

How to Support Your Child's Learning Process

  • Continue to attend school functions and to show your support for your adolescent.
  • Help your child find after-school programs and activities that interest them.
  • If your child is struggling in school, it may be best to find them a tutor or help schedule extra-help sessions with teachers.
  • Help prepare your child for the transitions to middle school and then high school.
  • Make sure your adolescent's class and homework load is manageable with the after-school activities he's involved in. If not, work with a guidance counselor or teacher to make your child's life run a little smoother.
  • Help your child get organized in middle school by giving her a planner to keep track of assignments and activities.

Developmental Milestones

Social and Emotional Development

  • Increased concern about body image, looks, and clothes
  • Self absorbed
  • More interested in and influenced by peer group
  • Less affectionate, sometimes moody, rude or short-tempered
  • Anxiety from more challenging school work
  • May experiment with risky behaviors and adult roles
  • Conflict is common as they begin to reject adult values and ideas

Cognitive Development

  • Able to think more abstractly
  • Better able to express feelings through talking
  • A stronger sense of right and wrong

Physical Development

  • Adolescence is a time of rapid growth in height and weight.
  • Boys grow body hair, their voices deepen, and their testicles increase in size.
  • Girls may grow body hair and breasts and start menstruating.
  • Growth in body parts may occur out of sync with each other. For example, the nose, arms, and legs may grow faster than the rest of the body.
  • Acne may appear as oil glands become more active.

Sexual Development
Adolescents are very concerned about body development, sexuality, self-esteem, their changing relationships with parents and friends, and their need to establish independence. In talking with teens, the goal is to give accurate information and help them discover what they feel. In doing so, they can take responsible control of their lives, particularly their sexual lives. Young adolescents may feel pressure to act as if they know everything even when they are totally lost. Firm guidance from you and good communication with you will help. Your willingness to talk to them about all aspects of their lives remains important. Even if you prefer that they behave differently, make sure they know you care about their health and well-being. You can influence your child by listening, observing behavior and by talking with him or her. By providing up-to-date information, you give your child a chance to make informed decisions. The teen with a strong, positive, proud sense of his or her sexuality will make careful, responsible decisions more often.


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