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Adolescence, the stepping stone to Adulthood

Group of Smiling Adolescents Adolescense is an interesting time as your Pre teen moves from childhood to teenager. Adolescence, sadly, is often negatively portrayed. This is the time when there are lots of physical changes, but also emotional growth as your teenager prepares for adulthood.

Lets have a look at what really happens and some tips for supporting your children's journey into becoming an adult.

If you want to jump straight to information about the phychological side of adolescent development, click here:
Adolescense: What makes them tick?

Oh Those Hormones!!

This is a busy time for your teenager, with all those hormones running rampant through out their body, causing changes! No wonder they need plenty of sleep! So what is happening physically during adolescense?

Adolescent Girls

For your adolescent girl, puberty begins around 10 or 11 years of age and ends around age 16. A teenage girl will usually get her first period around the same age that her mother did.

Physical Development in Girls:

  • height and weight and body fat increases
  • hips widen
  • breasts begin to enlarge
  • underarm and pubic hair grows
  • first menstrual period occurs
  • skin and hair become more oily and (oh no!) pimples may appear

Adolescent Boys

Adolescent development in boys starts later than girls, puberty usually starting around 12 years of age and lasting until around age 16 or 17.

Physical Development in Boys:

  • scrotum becomes darker and testicles grow larger
  • penis grows longer and fuller
  • pubic hair grows
  • breasts can get "lumps" and become tender
  • height and weight increase and muscles develop
  • wet dreams occur
  • voice cracks and gets deeper
  • skin and hair become more oily and pimples may appear
  • underarm and facial hair grow
Parenting Tips For Adolescence Never make fun of your teenager's physical development. Demonstrating respect for them is modelling them to respect their own bodies. Don't pass comments about the physical changes unless they invite it. Then, tell them how gorgeous they are and if you don't like what they are wearing - SHUT UP!!!

A lovely thing to do with daughters is to have a woman's day when she gets her first period. If you (and more importantly if your daughter is keen!) are into rituals you can prepare something with your close woman friends and family to celebrate her entry into the beginnings of womanhood. Or have a girls day out with your daughter, buying pretty frivolous underwear, going to lunch, getting your nails painted. If your daughter is not the girly type, go to the beach together or for a bush walk.

It's a bit harder to mark the occasion with boys. Many traditional cultures have rite of passage ceremonies for adolescent boys. Boys growing up need male bonding stuff (even though they will still want a few Mommy cuddles!) Encourage Dad or a close male friend or family member to spend some man time together, maybe a sports game, or a hike in the woods, or building something together.

Adolescence and Teenage Sexuality

Ohh the tricky one!! Adolescents begin to have strong sexual urges, and many become sexually active. It is also an experimental time, exploring sexual orientation (homosexual, heterosexual, bisexual).

Teenage Boy and Girl Relationship Empowering your adolescent to choose whether or not they want to be sexually active, rather than going along with peer pressure is really important. If they can talk comfortably with you about these issues then they are more likely to be able to say what they want (or don't want) with a boy or girlfriend.

Sadly, many teenagers don't choose consciously when they are ready to be sexually active, but go along with it, sometimes in the heat of the moment. Sexual feelings can be very powerful, and confusing and your teenager needs to feel able to talk about it all.

Educating your teenager about safe sex issues and taking responsibility for preventing pregnancy is important. However, having the BIG sit down, it's time for one of those talks is not always the best way to do it. Adolescence is a sensitive time, and they are starting to be private and you have to respect that.

I tended to always talk about stuff from when they were little children. That way it wasn't such a big issue when they got to a certain age. How do you know when that certain age is? Western cultures don't have rituals or rights of passage in the same way as indigenous cultures often do.

Far better to keep kids informed from a young age - how babies are made, where they come from etc. Then moving into discussions about safe sex and contraception, well before they are sexually active. That way, adolescents are basically already informed. When it becomes relevant they will remember alot of your little talks, and will find it much easier to come to you to get help with contraception etc. My kids used to educate their friends. They were sometimes shocked at misinformation or strange ideas some of their friends had, such as you can't get pregnant the first time you have sex!

Visit one of our reader's questions about Sexuality and Teenage Relationships

Adolescent Relationships

Teenage Boy and Girl at School Many parents worry about their adolescence ability to handle a relationship (sexual or otherwise), thinking that a relationship will interfere with school. Guess what? How do you think we learn about relationships? Partly by watching people around us (hopefully good role modelling) and also by practice!

When you think about it, pretty much everything we do is based on relationships. Learning to build healthy relationships may well be the primary learning at this age! The academic side of school can be learned anywhere, anytime. But the social interaction side of school is just as important. That includes relationships with teachers, and other adults.

We also have another Parenting Question you might find helpful: Mom Worried About Teenager Dating

How is your primary relationship? Is there room for your relationship to grow? You might be better to focus more energy on making your primary relationship the best it can be rather than worrying about your son!

Live the kind of relationship you would like your child to have:

  • Demonstrate your respect for your partner.
  • Listen, Listen, Listen, before you jump in with your say.
  • Practice going for the highest solution in any disagreement, What is the outcome that best satisfies all our needs.
  • Show your children how you nurture yourself and your partner.
  • HAVE FUN!!

If you are a single parent, then all the above still applies. Your relationship with yourself is really important. Honour and respect yourself, find ways to nurture yourself and have fun. Nurture your friendships and the family members that support you.

Most of my time as a parent was on my own, and I know it isn't always easy to juggle it all. But your kids need to see you taking time for yourself and making time for important friendships.

More Resources For The Adolescence Stage
Ask Annie Questions About Teenagers
Ask Annie is our Online Parent Coaching. Ask questions, or read or comment on what other parents are asking.

Super Skills 4 Kids
Is our home study course designed to help kids set goals, envision the future they want, and achieve anything! If a child wants to work on a behavioral goal, Super Skills is a perfect tool, or they may want to learn a practical skill like giving talks in class.

Super Skills 4 Kids is packed with tools and comes with a bonus workbook. I've had many parents say they use many of the techniques for themselves!

Psychological Development in Adolescence
What makes your Teenager tick?

Teen Problems
Teenage years can be a delight and a challenge for many parents. Heres some ideas on handling some of those tricky times!

Teenage Behaviour
This Audio answers questions from readers about communicating with teenagers. You can listen to it here, and ask your own questions.

Disciplining Children.
For more ideas on how to discipline a child read my article on disciplining kids and teens.

Misbehaving Children?
Do kids really misbehave? Lots of insights, and understanding their needs.

Child Development
One of the keys to understanding child behaviour, is understanding what is appropriate for the child's age. Click here for an overview with links to more in depth stages.

Do You Have Questions About Adolescence?
Read questions from other parents, and ask your own question about Adolescence, physical development, or behavior issues.

Your questions and my indepth answer becomes a page here on our site!

Are you a teenager? We'd love to hear your questions too! You can be totally anonymous.


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Children are educated by what the grown-up is and not by his talk.

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Super Skills 4 Kids

As a Parent Coach, I love empowering and inspiring parents, but it is much more rewarding to see children learning skills that will set them up for life.
Annie Desantis

These gorgeous cards are a great gift for a teenager.

I've used these in workshops, or as a teaching resource for teenagers. Have each teen hold the cards in their hands, shuffle them and ask for the best card to come to them. You can either give the card away to each teen, or let them choose a card that calls to them, and use it as a discussion point.


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