Monthly Archives: December 2007

The Awkward Years 14-16

Teens are sexually mature enough to make pregnancy possible. Acne is common – more often in boys. Hormones level off around age 15 for girls and 16 or 17 for boys. Girls usually reach adult size by age 16. Many teens are learning how to relate to the opposite sex and are exploring romantic relationships. Teens may change relationships often as they try on different identities. Hormones may also affect your teen’s emotional health. Some boys may experience anger, aggression and/or other powerful emotional outbursts. Others may withdraw emotionally from the family due to expectations about masculinity. Many girls have sudden, dramatic mood swings or struggle with self-esteem or body image.

What You Can Do

Parents should communicate their values about sex with their teen. Talk about the risks of sexual behavior and discuss healthy dating relationships, including respect and responsibility. Parents can also help smooth the emotional bumps through balance. Let your teens know you’re there if they need you, but don’t be intrusive. Give them the psychological space they need. If you demonstrate your continued interest in communicating, your teens will talk when they are ready.

Pushing the Envelope

Middle adolescence is often the most challenging time for parents. Hormones can fuel extreme emotions as teens start to separate from their parents. Teens begin to develop their identities, ideals and morals. They may disagree more about everyday issues and challenge limits. As they begin to “try on” different identities, they are more likely to take risks, such as using tobacco, alcohol, or other drugs.

What You Can Do

Teens want independence and the freedom to make choices. Parents can help by trying to subtly guide their decision-making, rather than controlling it. Don’t shy away from saying what you think is best. Teens want to know where you stand. Avoid power struggles and revisit some limits as your teen matures.

The Bandwagon

Peers are a big influence, and peer groups often include members of the opposite sex. Teens are spending more time away from home. There is more social pressure to rebel against parental rules and limits. Bullying is common and often directed at teens that have low self-esteem, lack social skills or are socially isolated. Verbal bullying among girls is increasingly widespread and may include gossiping, name-calling and spreading of rumors.

What You Can Do

Parents can tap into teens’ values on individuality by encouraging them to think for themselves and make independent decisions. If your teen suffers from low self-esteem or is the victim of bullying, help them build confidence by tapping into their interests and natural abilities and by providing opportunities to build social and coping skills. Watch for signs of mental health or school performance problems and seek help if needed.

“I’m Thinking About It”

Changes in the brain mean teens’ appetite for excitement is at a high point, leading to more risk-taking. Their ability to use good judgment and decision making is still limited. Complex thinking skills often emerge unevenly in teens, leading to patterns of thinking that frustrate many parents. Teens may be self-absorbed and think their peers and others are also constantly thinking about and looking at them. There is also a sense of personal immunity (“it can’t happen to me”), and all-or-nothing thinking (“everybody hates me!”).

What You Can Do

Because judgment is still immature, many teens might not think before they act. Parent should continue to provide structure and clear expectations. As a parent, you can help by not being dismissive of your teen, listening and helping him/her draw realistic conclusions about his/her concerns.

Navigating parenthood in the 21st century is more complex and complicated than ever before. We are grateful to The Beach Reporter for providing this opportunity to offer parents information, tips, and resources to help make their relationships with their teens more positive and productive.

The South Bay Coalition is dedicated to substance abuse prevention among the youth in our local cities. In order to ensure our programs, materials, and activities continue to be relevant to both teens and parents, we have developed a survey where parents can give us feedback on their beliefs and concerns about their children and community. We invite you to visit our website at: and take the survey. It’s all electronic and will only take about 10 minutes of your time. Thank you.