Your child is now officially a teenager, and it can be a challenging time for both of you. While they might be walking more confidently since those first tentative steps, they still have a long way to go and need your help.
Socially, your teen is more reliant on peer relationships and less dependent on you. They can now maintain stable relationships with adults and peers. While they’re more likely to have friends of the opposite sex, same-sex friendships will be more common. Their peers will influence them strongly in everything from their dress style to their interests and behavior.
Kids in this age group will test boundaries, but this will decrease as they get older and experience more of the independence they’ve been aiming for over the last few years (though they’ll likely complain you’re interfering too much). You may have some challenging conversations about morals and privileges, especially as they realize that adults aren’t perfect. They’re prone to the odd bout of childish behavior, particularly if they’re under stress.
There are some real emotional challenges ahead for your teen. They’re developing a stronger sense of identity, and their focus on themselves will increase. Their desire for privacy will get stronger. They’ll need recognition and positive feedback to help them maintain their self-esteem and confidence to tackle the more complex social, emotional, and academic challenges. Your teenager may have romantic relationships though they’ll often be short-term. While they’re interested in having freedom, they’re not quite ready for it; this can lead to real anxieties, especially as they approach key milestones such as leaving school or home.
Ages 13-15 is where you’ll see the most significant difference between boys and girls. Boys will be heading into puberty and dealing with changes to their body, including increased body hair and breaking voices, possibly resulting in additional concerns about body image. Girls will have experienced puberty; their menstruation cycle should be well-established, and they’ll be more sexually developed than boys.
Both genders will be more concerned at this stage about how attractive they are to others, and their interest in sex will increase. Now would be an appropriate time to have “the talk” with your teen if you haven’t already done so. Both boys and girls will continue growing, though this slows down as they approach age 16. You’ll notice an improvement in their motor skills, and they should have little difficulty tackling even the trickiest physical tasks.
You’ll notice your teenager is better at communicating their thoughts and feelings. They have strong values and ideals, and their interests are expanding, especially intellectually. They’re better at problem-solving, and by the time they’re around age 15, they’ll be able to think in abstract terms and apply their decision-making skills to more social and academic situations. Your child will be strongly affected at this age when they have worries or concerns. This is also the age where they may take more risks, especially if there’s negative peer influence, such as drinking, taking drugs, or having sex.
It may feel like your child is pulling away from you, but your support is needed more than ever. Regardless of their age, encouraging your child to talk to you, being non-judgmental, and valuing their views and concerns will let them know you’re there for them. You must be open and honest about everything, from how their bodies are changing to the challenges and risks they’ll face; if they trust you, they’re more likely to talk to you about the important things. Involving your kids in family decision-making helps them learn how to tackle problems and gives them the confidence to make independent choices in the future. Testing boundaries is common, so being clear and consistent is critical.
As independence changes, so does the relationship between you and your child. While it may be tempting to become their friend, you should remember they need their parents’ support and guidance. The key is to support your teen while giving them enough room to start spreading their wings.