The pre-teen and teen years are a wonderful time of growth and expanding horizons as your children begin maturing and trying out more adult-like thinking and behavior. As children grow, there are certain periods when changes are especially noticeable and predictable. One such time is during the pre-teen and early teen years when youth experience rapid development and change. This growth is seen in physical changes, social and emotional changes, and in the cognitive or thinking abilities of youth.
As children enter their preteen years, this normal development is often grouped into certain tasks that are important for youth to experience, explore and master. It’s that time when youth begin to test their independence, examine their values, challenge their parents, and explore their identity and sexuality.
The tasks are critical to the normal growth and development of adolescents. As youth experience and begin to master these functions, they move closer to the skills and abilities needed as adults to live healthy and well-adjusted lives. These tasks are not independent of one another; in fact, they are closely related and often combined in how youth test and accomplish them.
Let’s look a little closer at these major developmental tasks and learn why they are so important to our young people’s healthy growth.
- Physical: Young teens experience physical changes at a rapid pace. With these changes come a number of important tasks related to sexuality, body image and appearance.
- Brain: The early teen years are a time of increased thinking ability. Youth begin to move beyond concrete thinking (must see it to believe or understand it) and egocentrism (it’s all about me). A spurt of brain development promotes the growth of more mature reasoning and judgment as well as impulse control.
- Social-Emotional: Young adolescents will start to question their own identity, their personal beliefs and values (and those of their parents), and decisions. This exploration of who they are is critical in the development of independence, self-sufficiency and sense of self later in life. In the early stages of social-emotional growth, young adolescents will sometimes regress to child-like behaviors when stressed (which can make for unpredictable behaviors).
In our posts we link these key steps in growth and development to the ways in which children and teens may us digital media. Read our current posts related to physical growth, brain growth, and social/emotional growth.