Your Teen’s Age Offers You a Profile of His or Her Development
Parents often ask me: “Why has my adolescent forgotten everything I taught him? Why is he rebelling?”
These and similar questions are due to the confusion we experience as we see the changes in development our teenagers undergo during these years. To answer them, we must continue to acknowledge the importance of understanding adolescents in the stage of development that is typically age-determined.
The world of a 14-to-15 year old shifts developmentally, and it will help all those who have relationships with a teen this age to understand more about these difficult years of transition.
One distinct characteristic: the need for a best friend
A 14-to-15 year old really wants to have a best friend. There is still some awkwardness physically, and there can be a lot of emotional pain, loneliness and a sense of isolation. A best friend can connect at the level this age needs.
Rite of passage experiences evidenced in issues like drinking, drugs, being sexually active and learning to drive become primary areas of intense preoccupation.
There is more interest in personal and social goals than academic ones.
- Learning largely becomes more of a process of trial and error
- Intellectually, new capacities are developing, such as propositional thought, consideration of ideas contrary to fact, new levels of reasoning with more than one variable, new realizations and insights into poetry and musical notation, insight into behaviors, values and moral and ethical decisions
- There is a desire for knowledge that is useful in real life situations.
Physically, 14-to-15 year olds have more rapid rates of maturation internally and externally. They move into full-scale puberty with increases in weight, height, heart size, lung capacity and muscular strength. Metabolism continues to fluctuate which causes degrees of restlessness and listlessness. Metabolic changes are also the reason for bouts of ravenous appetite with changing likes and dislikes of certain foods, but with a preference for protein.
Growing pains and raging hormones
Girls are taller than boys, although boys are catching up. Bone growth is still more rapid than muscular growth, which results in awkward coordination. These adolescents report that they can almost feel their bodies growing and will express aches and pains during long drives or excursions.
Psychologically, there are fluctuations in mood and behavior due to raging hormones. Hormones add intensity to physical and sexual desires, and though they may have more desire to experience sex, they have an immature concept of intimacy.
These teens offend easily, are self-conscious, have low self-esteem and are vulnerable to comments from others. While they can have moments of great bravado, they are prone to anxiety and fear. Emotions can shift radically from feeling superior to feeling inferior.
Egocentric and argumentative
They participate in one-sided arguments and are quite egocentric. Sometimes they will argue a point just to see if they can convince you, a sign that their intellectual ability has permitted a sense of humor to emerge more prominently.
Socially, 14-to-15 year olds feel they need to move away from parents emotionally. You will notice this by behavior characterized as acting or feeling angry. In fact, they may try to find parental substitutes.
They now prefer peers as their source for values and standards. They are loyal to peer groups and preoccupied with peer group conflicts. There can be both aggressive and argumentative episodes of acting out. They tend to test limits, challenge authority and struggle to trust adults.
Morally and ethically, they ask the large questions about the meaning of life and want sincere answers. They are more reflective and introspective. Unfortunately, they also are at risk for poor choices and decisions concerning values that could be life-defining. This is a time of moral and ethical exploration to them…in their daily interactions, their media and their world.
With all these changes going on it is easy to understand why parents and caregivers have many struggles understanding this stage of adolescence. However, normalizing these changes allows us to understand and react with intention to behaviors and attitudes that are often misunderstood.
This information is taken from the research of Bettie H. Youngs, as published in her book Safeguarding Your Teenager from the Dragons of Life.
Gerry Vassar, President and CEO, Lakeside Educational Network