5 Challenges of Early Adolescence (and How to Help Your Tween Thrive)

5 Challenges of Early Adolescence (and How to Help Your Tween Thrive)

Early adolescence is a challenging time for many maturing boys and girls. Their bodies are growing, the way they think is changing, and they’ve started to navigate the confusing world of crushes.

During this difficult but crucial transitional period, you can support your tween and make adolescence a less scary maze of development. 

Here’s what pediatric care specialists Rainilda Valencia, MD, Micaela Marin-Tucker, PA-C, and Megan Reynolds, C-PNP, of Valencia Pediatrics in Victorville, California, have identified as five challenges of early adolescence and what you can do to help your tween thrive.

Challenge #1: Changing body

In the tween and young teen years, boys and girls start to experience physical changes as they develop adult bodies. This usually starts younger for girls than boys, sometimes as young as age 10.

Boys and girls both have a growth spurt and develop body hair and odor. Girls start to develop breast tissue and have their monthly menstrual periods. For boys, their penises and testicles grow larger and they start to have erections and ejaculate.

Challenge #2: Decision-making skills

Tweens start to move beyond the concrete thinking of childhood to develop the more abstract, complex thinking skills they’ll need as adults. They’re able to consider the bigger picture, solve problems, and be more creative.

However, the brain isn’t fully developed in early adolescence, and this can lead to problems with your tween’s judgment. Tweens and teens tend to be more impulsive, take more risks, and have a hard time prioritizing tasks and planning for the future than adults.

Challenge #3: Emotional development

The changes in your tween’s body and brain also cause them to have emotional changes. They become more aware of their feelings, how others feel, and ultimately, how to manage their feelings.

These new emotional complexities can cause your tween to feel more emotional, causing mood swings, anxiety, and depressive feelings. They also tend to be more self-centered than adults and highly focused on their own feelings.

Challenge #4: Social relationships

Tweens start to become more focused on their peer groups as they enter early adolescence and less interested in their parents. They start to spend more time with friends, rather than family, and can be highly influenced by their peer group.

Your tween might also start to develop more of an interest in romantic relationships as well as their budding sexuality.

Challenge #5: Self-consciousness and self-esteem

The major changes during early adolescence mean your tween starts to develop more of a sense of who they are. This is ultimately a positive thing but can cause them to feel insecure and self-conscious as they start to find that sense of self.

Tweens can negatively compare themselves to their peers, especially if they’re earlier or later to physically develop. They can also feel awkward and uncomfortable about the changes in their bodies and romantic or sexual interest from peers.

How you can support your tween

Your parenting role changes as your child enters adolescence. Your tween often no longer looks up to you in the same way they did as a child and may become more influenced by their peers.

As a parent, your role is to guide and support your tween as they grow into teenagers and adults. This means being a supportive, listening ear and offering advice when they ask for it.

A big transition for you is learning to be a guide to your tween without being as direct or involved as when they were children. Instead, you’re there to educate your tween, help them in making good decisions, and respond with empathy.

Our team at Valencia Pediatrics guides you and your child through the period of early adolescence and adolescence. At well-child exams, we ensure your child’s physical, cognitive, and emotional development are on track for their age.

To make an appointment for your tween at Valencia Pediatrics, call our office today. We’re here to help guide you and your child as you navigate this time in their life together.

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