You've lived through 2 AM feedings, toddler temper tantrums, and the
back-to-school blues. So why is the word "teenager" causing you so much
When you consider that the teen years are a period of intense growth,
not only physically but morally and intellectually, it's understandable
that it's a time of confusion and upheaval for many families.
Despite some adults' negative perceptions about teens, they are often
energetic, thoughtful, and idealistic, with a deep interest in what's
fair and right. So, although it can be a period of conflict between
parent and child, the teen years are also a time to help kids grow into
the distinct individuals they will become.
Understanding the Teen Years
So when, exactly, does adolescence start? The message to send your
kid is: Everybody's different. There are early bloomers, late arrivers,
speedy developers, and slow-but-steady growers. In other words, there's a
wide range of what's considered normal.
But it's important to make a (somewhat artificial) distinction between puberty and adolescence. Most of us think of puberty as the development of adult sexual characteristics: breasts, menstrual periods,
pubic hair, and facial hair. These are certainly the most visible signs
of puberty and impending adulthood, but kids who are showing physical
changes (between the ages of 8 and 14 or so) also can be going through a
bunch of changes that aren't readily seen from the outside. These are
the changes of adolescence.
Many kids announce the onset of adolescence with a dramatic change in
behavior around their parents. They're starting to separate from Mom
and Dad and to become more independent. At the same time, kids this age
are increasingly aware of how others, especially their peers, see them
and are desperately trying to fit in. Their peers often become much more
important, as compared with their parents, in terms of making
Kids often start "trying on" different looks and identities, and they
become very aware of how they differ from their peers, which can result
in episodes of distress and conflict with parents.