Growth and Development, Ages 11 to 14 Years (cont.)
The years 11 through 14 are exciting and confusing. Many parents have concerns about how their children will handle the many physical and emotional changes that usually happen during this time. Some of these common concerns include:
- Your child's transition into middle school or junior high. The fear of the unknown and the anticipation of more homework and uncomfortable social situations can be terrifying for some adolescents and young teens. Listen to your child's concerns and ask whether you can help. For example, you may be able to help relieve your child's anxieties about joining a school-related activity, such as band or a team sport, by making sure he or she has the right equipment and knows exactly when and where the practices will be held.
- How your child will handle the challenges of puberty. The way puberty affects your child may in part depend on the timing of puberty—whether your child starts puberty early, late, or at about the average age. It can help if you explain the effects of puberty before physical changes start to happen. Try offering your adolescent age-appropriate books about puberty. Share some of your own experiences, and reassure your child that it is normal to feel uncertain at times.
- Confusion about what matters to your adolescent. Although you may remember some of the anxiety of the adolescent years, the specific causes of these anxieties constantly change. Being involved in your child's life—by going to school events and encouraging friends to meet at your house while you are home—can help you to understand his or her world.
- How to talk about sex. Approach the subject before the information is needed, but don't expect your child to want to talk about it. Offer information gradually, rather than overwhelming your adolescent with too many facts at one time. Be aware that children have easy access to many Web sites with sexual or pornographic content. Keep the computer in a shared area where you can see what your child is doing online.
- Whether your child will avoid tobacco, drugs, and alcohol. Do not smoke, drink, or take drugs if you expect your child to avoid using them. Set firm, fair, and consistent limits for your child. Help him or her understand the immediate and long-term consequences of substance use, such as falling grades and poor health during adulthood. Give your child a chance to practice how to respond when a harmful substance is offered, such as stating, "No, thanks," and moving on to another subject. Look for community programs led by youth (peer education). And talk to your child right away if he or she has signs of substance use.