Teen Wellness Overview
In a matter of six years, teens are dealing with physical, mental and emotional changes.
It is important to begin to shoulder more responsibility, but is also an important time for increased independence as well as social and emotional growth. WellStar pediatricians can help parents and teenagers learn what to expect and how to navigate this exciting and sometimes challenging phase.
- Early adolescence, generally ages 11 and 13
- Middle adolescence, ages 14 to 16
- Late adolescence, ages 17 to 21
In addition to physiological growth, teens are developing intellectually, psychologically and socially. These years of change and growth are fundamental to form one’s own identity and to prepare for adulthood.
Puberty is defined as the biological changes of adolescence. By mid-adolescence, if not sooner, most youngsters’ physiological growth is well under way. They are close to their adult height and weight, and are now physically capable of reproduction.
Teens rarely set their sights beyond the present, which explains younger teens’ inability to consider the long-term consequences of their actions.
By late adolescence, a teenager’s ability to project into the future, solve complex problems and to sense what others are thinking has sharpened considerably. But, because of inexperience, even older teens apply these newfound skills erratically and may act without thinking.
Teenagers’ emotional development means they must start asserting their independence, and distance themselves from Mom and Dad. Autonomy can take myriad forms: less overt affection, more time spent with friends, contentious behavior, pushing the limits.
Teens’ social circles ripple outward to include friendships with members of the same sex, the opposite sex, different social groups, and adults, like a favorite teacher or coach. Eventually, teenagers develop the capacity for falling in love and forming romantic relationships.
Not all teenagers develop at the same age or display the same behaviors as their peers. As individuals, teens can be further along in some areas of development than in others. For example, a fifteen-year-old girl may physically resemble a young adult, but she may still act very much like a pre-teen. It isn’t until late adolescence that intellectual, emotional and social development begins to catch up with physical development.
Talking About Sex
A high percentage of teens engage in some form of sexual activity, may be participating in unprotected sex, exposing themselves to potentially grave disease and unwanted pregnancy.
Sharing factual information with and giving good moral guidance to your teenager is a vitally important part of helping your teen understand herself or himself. It can help your child avoid devastating, and possibly life-threatening, errors in judgment.
Advice for parents:
- The most important thing to teach your child is responsibility.
- Keep an open channel of communication in dealing with questions about sexuality and sexual health
- Set aside your own agenda of “don’t do this and don’t do that” and take a step back to discuss what is important to your teen
- Keep reminding your teen that you are in his/her corner every step of the way.
By engaging your teen and building self-esteem and confidence in her ability to make judgments, you’re showing that you respect what she’s learning and how she’s growing in her decision-making.