Independence, individuality, identity, and self-esteem are
buzzwords for early teen emotional and social development.
Elementary school-age children have strong ties to their families and
want to please their parents. The years 11 through 14 are a transition between
childhood and adulthood. Appropriately, adolescents begin to feel the
psychological urge to become more independent from their families. This is
sometimes seen in an all-consuming interest in friends and teen hobbies. Early
adolescents tend to form strong, same-sex friendships. They may have such
strong alliances and feelings that they can wonder if they could be gay or
lose interest in family matters. When at home, they may want to be alone,
hanging out in their rooms with music blaring.
independence is a wholesome and needed step, although it is often
misunderstood. Adolescents may have periods of being sullen and aloof, and
parents feel hurt by this behavior. But it is normal for the age. When
adolescents are with their parents, they are reminded that they are children,
even if parents don't treat them that way, and they want to feel like
grown-ups. Often, the more parents try to hold on to a childhood image of their
children, the more independence adolescents usually assert.
independence comes a need to have an individual identity. To establish
their identity, many adolescents associate with peers and strive to be
independent of family. The peer group often replaces, at least in part, parents
as a source of support and advice. Adolescents often express their
individuality by dressing like their friends or by joining the same activities,
such as skateboarding or cheerleading.
Some parents take this
change in attitude as a personal attack, although it is a normal part of
adolescent social and emotional development. Remember: Your child is
establishing himself or herself as an individual, and that often means not
being like you. So be prepared!
Adolescents with healthy
self-esteem may be least vulnerable to peer group pressure. When they are faced with difficult decisions, they are best able to
call on values learned at home.
February 28, 2012
Susan C. Kim, MD - Pediatrics & Louis Pellegrino, MD - Developmental Pediatrics
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