Many parents report that the teenage years are as difficult if not more difficult than the toddler years. I talk a lot about this in my blog post: Why Teens are So Hard! Today I thought I would go into this topic a little more in-depth to help parents understand the important developmental tasks their teen needs to complete before stepping fully into adulthood.
Establishing an Identity
Many people argue this is the single most important task of adolescence. During this time teens need to establish a clear understanding of their values, opinions, beliefs, and how they fit into the world. For many of us adults, this is something that is ongoing or even fluid, however, the teenage years are the foundation for identity. As a result of this important task, you may see some behavioral changes such as:
- Spending more time alone in the room or on the phone
- Spending less time with family & more time with friends
- Trying new hobbies, interests, clothing styles, hairstyles, and music
- Experimentation with drugs, alcohol, or sex
- Increased daydreaming
I will go into this topic more in a later post, but this is a task that can often create friction between teens and their parents. Part of this important task of adolescence is to become independent and figure out their own way in the world. This often looks like pushing parents away and trying to make decisions on their own. Frequently parents misinterpret this as defiance or “talking back” when this is perfectly normal and necessary during this time. Some examples of what this may look like include:
- Talking less to parents about school, friends, or relationships
- Not wanting to talk to or be seen in public with parents or other adults.
- Arguing with parents or pushing back on rules
- Refusing help from parents
- Acting uninterested in previous childhood interests
- Mood swings
Practicing Intimacy & Closeness
This is an important time for teenagers to learn pro-social behavior, how to make and keep friends, and what healthy intimacy looks like. While this period can include sexual intimacy, the primary goal is to develop healthy emotional intimacy, vulnerability, and boundaries. You may see some shifts in the way they interact with others including:
- Intense friendships
- Strong peer alliances and loyalties
- Increased time spent with friends in person and online.
- New crushes or romantic relationships
- Curiosity about sex and possible exploration of sex or dating
Adjusting to Physical Changes
Part of the changes in the teenage years include massive physical changes in the body. Teens can become hyper-focused on their appearance and self-conscious. What you might see in your teen could be:
- Taking a long time to get dressed or multiple outfit changes.
- Preoccupation with appearances
- Increased focus on what others look like
- Insecurity around body or appearance or shyness
Adjusting to Brain and Hormone Changes
Finally, the last task of adolescence happens completely in the brain itself as teenagers gain access to higher-level abstract thinking. They are now better able to think hypothetically which in part contributes to increased self-focus as they realize others may have opinions about them. They are also working on learning how to plan, organize themselves and think of future consequences. This can cause a myriad of changes such as:
- Increase risk-taking without thinking of consequences.
- Increase concerns about how others see them.
- Increased focus on thoughts and feelings
- Increased self-focus.
- Questioning family values, spiritual beliefs, political beliefs
- Greater black/white thinking
- Increased forgetfulness and disorganization
Understanding is Vital
While the teenage years can be a hard time for parents and teenagers alike, it can be helpful to understand these are all normal and vital steps to teenage development. Parents can help support their teens by normalizing what they are going through and coming from a place of encouragement and understanding.
If your Teenager is Struggling With the Changes They Are Going Through, Reach Out to a Teen Therapist in Katy, TX Today!
While most teenagers will have some bumps along the way, this period can also be ripe for mental health issues. If your teenager is showing signs of severe behavior problems, difficulty with peer relationships, depression, anxiety, or self-injury, this is a sign your teen needs help. A specialist in teen counseling at Katy Counseling will help you and your teen navigate these developmental tasks in a healthy and effective way. Follow the steps below to get started.
- Learn more about our teen counseling team here.
- Fill out our convenient online contact form for more information.
- Begin the journey to getting your teen well – schedule now.
Other Mental Health Services Offered At Katy Counseling
In addition to offering services for teen counseling, we also offer a wide range of services for adults, couples, and children. These services include Play Therapy, Adult Counseling, Counseling for Women, Couples Counseling, Trauma Counseling, and Lens Neurofeedback. Our goal is to meet you where you are and help guide you through the issues you are facing in a positive and supportive way.