Kids. Wouldn’t it be nice if they came with a handbook? If you are a parent, teacher, or mentor of kids or teens, you know that time spent with them can be either extremely rewarding or pull-your-hair-out frustrating. While anything worthwhile is always going to be challenging, interacting with kids and teens becomes much easier when you understand a little bit about age-appropriate behavior.
The pre-teen years are filled with developmental changes and milestones. Because so many changes take place during these years, they can leave kids and the adults who deal with them a bit rattled. On average, girls are midway through puberty by age 12, while boys are just beginning. The brain is finished growing but is still developing at a rapid pace. Most especially, pre-teens are developing the ability to think abstractly and to problem-solve. This is the age when kids begin to pull away from their family and attach more closely to their peers. They crave independence and are beginning to question their parents’ morals and beliefs. While moodiness is very normal for pre-teens, watch out for signs of serious depression or anxiety.
As kids move into their early teen years you can expect the moodiness and detachment to continue. Depression and anxiety become more common during these years, as do the onset of eating disorders. Peer pressure is a major issue for early teens. You might also see more evidence of stress as far as schoolwork and extracurricular performance goes. Additionally, it is very normal for kids in their early teens to be highly self-focused. This can show itself in egotism, low self-esteem, extreme self-consciousness, and meanness to others.
As teens continue to develop they generally become more agreeable again. Conflict with parents tends to decrease, general aptitude increases, relational skills improve, and outreach beyond the self becomes more typical. Older teens are usually able to think more for themselves morally, as well as engage in activities that they enjoy independently from peers. Many teens are beginning to think beyond the moment and plan for the future. At the same time, interest in relationships and sexuality is at an all-time high for many older teens.
While many frustrating teen behaviors are completely normal, they can still be challenging to navigate. However, when you know that a behavior is normal it can provide some peace of mind. Just remember that self-destructive or damaging behaviors are never normal and require thoughtful and loving intervention.
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