When a family brings home a new infant, it’s easy to marvel at his or her rapid development. Each new milestone seems like an amazing step in a bright, new journey.

As children enter the teen years, they face developmental milestones that are just as vital to their future. However, many of these come with confusing or even disturbing behavior parents are less likely to see as cause for celebration.

It’s crucial to understand that big changes are happening – and they go beyond the obvious emotional and social effects of puberty. Early teen years, in particular, are essential to neurological development that helps children flourish as young adults.

Through it all, emotional support from caring adults remain absolutely indispensable.

Here’s what parents, caregivers, and loved ones should look out for in the teen years.

Age 13 to 14

Young teens are under more social pressure than they usually face for the rest of their lives. This is because, though they are sensitive to criticism from their peers, they don’t have the sophisticated emotional reasoning necessary to decipher what’s really going on

At the same time, teens at this age find it more difficult to cope with stress.

This is an age when stress-related disorders are more likely to be diagnosed. It’s particularly important for adults to model good stress management behaviors, since patterns learned at this time can become ingrained in the brain for the rest of a teen’s life.

What Parents Can Do

  • Teach kids to read body language and expressions so they can understand others better.
  • Encourage them to select their friends based on shared interests, not “popularity” alone.
  • Help them understand when apologizing and compromising are necessary after a conflict.
  • Choose self-soothing behaviors like exercise, music, or meditation to build coping skills.

Age 15 to 16

Research shows risk-taking peaks at 15-16. Structural changes in the brain make teens more sensitive to the effects of dopamine, the main neurotransmitter associated with pleasure. This correlates with greater thrill-seeking, which will never be quite this satisfying again.

As the teen brain temporarily suppresses its normal fears of danger, social support protects teens from taking dangerous risks. Teens who have many friends they can trust are more likely to avoid behavior like shoplifting or unprotected sex.

What Parents Can Do

  • Give teens chances to grow closer to you by maintaining family traditions and activities.
  • Practice active listening with your teen to foster deeper trust – avoid arguing and yelling.
  • Be willing to talk through teens’ problems while letting them decide what to do next.
  • Show respect for teens’ developing sense of autonomy and personal space when you can.

Age 17 to 18

In the later teen years, intellectual development can show obvious improvements. Gifted teens are more likely to register IQ improvements around this time, for example. It is not too late for teens to pick up hobbies that expand the mind, such as language or music.

Teens at this age can learn better problem-solving while curbing some riskier impulses of the earlier years. Empathy is likely to develop, but advanced social skills – like sensing others’ motives – will not usually be in place until the early twenties.

What Parents Can Do

  • Encourage teens to exercise planning skills by taking on more long-term projects.
  • Show empathy to teens and encourage them to see things from other perspectives.
  • Support them emotionally as they make some of their first major adult decisions.

Drug dependency, psychological issues, and other factors can hinder teen development. If a teen you love struggles with severe issues like these, contact WinGate Wilderness Therapy for help.

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WinGate Therapy

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