The teen years pose some of the most difficult challenges for families. Teenagers, dealing with hormone changes and an ever-complex world, may feel that no one can understand their feelings, especially parents. As a result, the teen may feel angry, alone and confused while facing complicated issues about identity, peer, sexual behavior, violence, drinking and drugs.
Middle school and early high school
This is the age when children first start to move toward independence. Their bodies begin to change physically and they feel awkward or strange about themselves and their bodies. This is also an age that is characterized by moodiness. Young teens are easily influenced, sensitive to criticism, and blow simple events out of proportion. They may be easily provoked, and feel self-conscious about their changing bodies. They are much better at expressing themselves, and can use words to describe their feelings. They begin to see parents as imperfect. They show less affection to parents, and at times, may be overtly rude to parents. They start to test the limits of rules. They model their behavior based on their friends. They are intolerant of those outside of their peer group and those who are different than their peer group.
Teens at this age are developing the skills they need to solve real life problems. Often, they may seem detached and uninvolved. They are loyal to friends, they need friends. Some teens may want total independence, but are rarely capable of it. They want to explore moral and ethical issues that confront them and are very reflective about their thoughts and feelings.
Older teens have the ability to express a wide range of feelings. They can easily swing from childish behaviors to being serious and grown-up. They see parents as old fashioned and unsophisticated, which helps them establish the courage to assert their independence. They may even leave home for a few days to continue the search for ‘who I am.’ They begin developing true empathy as their concern for others increases. Peer relationships remain important and take an appropriate place among other interests. They begin showing a greater capacity for setting goals, using insight. There is an increased emphasis on personal dignity and self-esteem. They begin gaining an appreciation for social and cultural traditions.
Late High school (18 +)
Although our society views young people over 18 as adults, they still have a great deal of developmental work to do. At this age, they face serious decisions about the course of their future. They are sometimes absorbed in themselves, searching for answers about what to do with their lives. They have a strong desire to become dependent on themselves, but may be confused and frightened about their unknown future. They often deal with hard moral and ethical questions and worry about their emotional health. They miss their family, as they are planning to leave home (military, college, etc.). They may establish a long term, close relationship (shared household, long courtship, early marriage.)