As your child becomes a teenager hormones will play a big role in his or her development. Hormonal changes can result in moodiness, insecurity and a period of uncertainty for your teenaged child. Whether your teenager is worrying about acne or breast size, always remember that their worries are real and valid. Privacy is very important to your teenager. Allow them the time and space to work through their thoughts and feelings alone. Let them know you’re available but try not to push.
Growing pains are a normal part of teenage life and sports injuries can be very common for your teenager. It’s normal for growing muscles and joints to ache from time to time. Talk to your provider about persistent pain issues or concerns about repeated injury.
Continue to reinforce the need for balanced nutrition and regular physical activity as well as family rules and values. Involve your teenager in added household responsibilities such as meal preparation, laundry, yard work and taking care of younger siblings.
One of the hallmarks of teen development is independence and with that comes a power struggle. Don’t be surprised if your teenager is testing limits, by pushing boundaries and pushing your buttons! Your teenager may seem to pull away from their parents in search of their own identity. Teenager often consider his or her friends to be more important and influential than family at this age.
Questioning traditions and challenging your ideas are two sure signs that your teenager is forming his or her own opinions about the world around them. As a parent it can be hard not to feel you are loosing control. Even when you don’t agree with them, remember that your teenager’s thoughts, views and beliefs are valid and deserve consideration. Keeping an open mind is the best way to teach your teenager to do the same. As your teenager gains their own sense of right and wrong you’ll be there to provide a moral compass and redirect them when they loose their way.
You may notice that your teen seems to be self-centered, concerned only for his or her feelings, appearance, wants and “needs”. It can be hard to accept that this behavior is normal but it’s important to try. As a parent, watch for emotional changes that seem to go beyond the normal mood swings of puberty. If your teenager seems really overwhelmed or hopeless, talk to your provider about the warning signs of mental health problems so you’ll know what’s normal and what’s cause for concern.
Risky behaviors can increase in these early teen years. Your teen may be struggling with the urge to “fit in” or they may just be curious. Regular reinforcement about the consequences of drugs, alcohol, and tobacco are very important. Your teenager may also be starting to explore romantic relationships. Establishing an open dialogue with your teenager about dating, sex and relationships isn’t easy but it is necessary. Teach them to respect their bodies and that it’s OK to be curious, but that it’s also OK to say that they’re not ready. For many teens the fear of peer rejection if they admit they’re not ready for a sexual relationship can be just as scary as the sexual activity itself.
Continue to praise your teen for all of their smart choices, encouraging them to make more good decisions in the future. Your teenager may not openly admit it, but your approval still matters very much. And when they are struggling to do the right thing, talk to them with patience and understanding, trying to remember how you felt at that age. The teenage years are a time of change and discovery for both your child and you. There may be challenges at times but also many happy milestones and achievements to celebrate along the way.
Next Visit: 15 – 17 year checkup