NDSU Extension Service - Ramsey County

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Teens are People Too!

Teens are People Too!

Some have compared it to the “terrible twos” – those teen age years. They may wear clothes that look odd to their parents, never speak unless they want something and be more in tune with technology than their families but teens are wonderful individuals with unique personalities and special interests, likes and dislikes.

In general, all teens move through a series of developmental tasks.  Many child development specialists divide teen development into three stages - early, middle, and late adolescence.

Early adolescents (12-14 years) are on the move to independence. They struggle with their own sense of identity as they come to know their own strengths and weaknesses. Close friendships gain in importance. Search for new people to love in addition to parents. Their peer group greatly influences their interests and clothing styles.  They have a greater interest in privacy but at the same time can have some show-off qualities as their bodies mature.

Middle adolescents (14-17 years) often alternate between unrealistically high expectations and poor self-esteem. They often complain that parents interfere with independence.  They continue to have a strong emphasis on their peer group. Intellectual interests, particularly related to careers, gain importance and they have a greater capacity for setting goals.

Late adolescents (17-19 years) have a firmer identity and more stable interests.  They can be more able to compromise and have more emotional stability.  They have a higher level of concern for the future.  They have a greater acceptance of social institutions and cultural traditions.

Understanding the developmental tasks of teens can help parents and others understand why adolescents act the way they do and how to positively deal with their behaviors.  For example, between the ages of 12 and 14, teens often test limits and rules. Parents might set 6 p.m. as the time to come home for dinner. Teens at this age might test the limits and come home at 6:15. If nothing happens, they might continue to come home a little later each day until the parent confronts them on the limit. Understanding that this is normal for teens can help parents anticipate the rule-testing behavior. Parents will restate the rules, expect the rules to be followed, and follow through on consequences if the rules aren't followed. Teens want to know that parents are paying attention to the rules and that parents expect the rules to be followed.

Or another example, how far can my teen be trusted?  Teens, like adults, can and should be trusted until they prove otherwise. When your teen lies about where he/she is going or who she will be with, they cannot be trusted to tell the truth. On the other hand, you have to look at why he/she did something that made you not trust her. Are your rules or expectations so strict that your teen can't talk to you or get you to meet him/her halfway?  When teens lie or do something else that makes them untrustworthy, work out ways that they can make amends. We all make mistakes and need a chance to make up for those mistakes. Ask your teen how he/she is going to make up for their mistake of lying and how he/ she will prove she can be trusted.

Or, how do you deal with a teen who is rude to adults?  A lack of respect or rudeness upsets most of us and makes us angry. Chances are that this behavior did not start overnight and has been going on for a long time. Look at the situation and see how much respect he gets from other family members. Is this the way people in the family treat each other? Is the teen mimicking what he sees someone else do?

If you feel comfortable that people in your family treat each other with respect, confront the situation head on. If he treats you rudely, ignore him. Then tell him that if he wants to communicate with you, he will have to speak kindly and you will respond.  Work on building a good relationship by listening to his needs and wants to show you care about him.

Between taking care of all those family members, working and any volunteer work is very important that parents take good care of themselves physically, emotionally, socially, and mentally. If you like to read, that can be relaxing. But read what YOU want, not what you think you should read. Listening to music, walking, deep breathing, leafing through cookbooks, dancing, and watching movies are all possible ideas. There is nothing wrong with spending time on yourself for yourself. You really are a better parent for it, and you show your kids how to take good care of themselves.

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