. Social & Emotional Development - Manitoba Parent Zone

Teens - About Your Teen

Social & Emotional Development

Much of the drama in a teen's life comes from his high-speed social, emotional and moral development and very important social life. Maybe your teen has decided to become a vegetarian overnight. Or maybe your teen has suddenly decided he doesn't like country music or basketball. If any of this sounds familiar, congratulations! Your teen is on his way to becoming an independent person! It can be difficult to keep up with all of his likes and dislikes, but by the time he's through his teen years you'll both have a much better idea of who your child has become.

All of the rapid social and emotional changes during the teen years mean you might feel like you're on a roller coaster ride, and in a way you are. Just remember that roller coasters are fun and thrilling precisely because you don't know what to expect. You know that you're safe inside the car and all of the loops and dips are controlled, but there may still be feelings of fear, excitement, stress, and joy. When you get off the roller coaster, you might get right back in line, having loved the experience. Or you might kiss the ground to be back safe and sound. But however you feel when you get on the roller coaster, keep in mind that it does will eventually stop. Try to enjoy the ride as you and your teen go through the next few years.

During this stage, your teen is going to want more control and involvement in decision-making. It's a good idea to let her practice her decision-making and problem solving skills. This does not mean she is capable or should be expected to make every decision on her own, but smaller choices are appropriate. This gradual exposure to decision-making will help her make healthy, responsible choices when she is an adult. Right now, it's very important for your teen to feel like she has some control over her life.

Often the decisions your teen wants to make include things like her clothing, make-up, hairstyle, music, bedroom, and other aspects of teen culture. Many of these issues are a source of parent-teen conflict and have been for many years. Miniskirts, knee-high boots, shaggy hairstyles, bell bottoms, tube-tops and spandex... remember wearing any of these items?

Talk to your teen about his choices but remember that he believes he looks good in his outfit – you won't get anywhere by yelling or criticizing his choices. If you are concerned about what others may think of your teen, remember that most people almost expect teens to dress in a strange way. Additionally, your teen is probably dressed just like all of the other teens he knows. You likely aren't the only parent worried, upset or concerned. Take comfort in the knowledge that others are going through the same thing and have the same feelings.

If you provide the money or means to purchase your teen's clothing, makeup and style you can set healthy limits. If you do not want your daughter to wear miniskirts tell her why and do not buy them. Yes, she might have a miniskirt hidden in a box in her closet but what did you hide from your parents? Try to stay calm and see this as a positive stage of development – your teen is learning to think for herself and this gives you the perfect opportunity to keep talking to each other.

In fact, adolescence is a great time for discussing things with your teen – not lecturing, but talking to your teen about his thoughts and feelings. When you talk to your teen, try to remain calm and respect his thoughts and opinions. It's important to keep communication open, positive and respectful as this will be your greatest parenting tool over the next few years.

And keep in mind that teens do not think the way adults do – remember, a teen brain is still developing. So it is very likely that your adult-bodied, teen-brained child will let you know just how she feels and thinks. Odds are she's going to think and feel differently than you do about many things. But that's okay.

You could talk to your teen about current issues and get her opinions on the world around her. Politics, pop culture, religion, career development, healthy body image, and personal values are all very interesting topics and your teen might just surprise you with his knowledge, passion and interests. It's good to encourage these discussions. It's a great way to learn how to listen and share ideas while respecting different opinions. This can be difficult for parents, but respecting your teen's opinions will go a long way in teaching her respect for your opinions too.

Opinions are in part what make us individuals, and the teen years are all about identity formation. Teens are busy growing and developing into their adult selves. You probably want your teen to think for himself and question what is going on around him. You don't want him to follow his friends blindly, right? Well, this goes for your opinions and values too – he needs to learn to make his own decisions.

If you can enjoy the ride, it really can be a fun time and, rest assured, most teens come around eventually (usually in their twenties) and end up having similar values as their parents! For now, have fun with their different clothing, music and ideas!

Body Image

During the teen years, physical appearance and body image play a large role. Whether your teen dresses in popular clothing, wears only black, or chooses pants four sizes too large, your teen wants to project a certain image. One's image tells the world something about your style, tastes and interests. Generally teens want to look good, be considered attractive by their peers, and feel good about themselves – using their own definition of attractive, of course.

Television, movies, music and other forms of media strongly influence what your teen believes is cool and attractive. Unfortunately, the images and messages teens receive are often extremely sexual and violent and may create unrealistic expectations about normal behaviour and normal bodies.

These unrealistic expectations can lead some teens to make poor choices about their eating and exercising habits. If your daughter believes size-zero models are the ideal and the only way to look beautiful, then she might feel badly about her own body if she isn't a size zero. If your son thinks he should have six-pack-abs and large biceps to be attractive, he might start to think he is worthless if he can't build muscle to this degree.

Some teens will not only feel badly about their bodies, but will also begin to think they aren't good enough because they don't meet their body ideal. Teens who think in such extremes might begin to develop unhealthy eating and exercising habits leading to eating disorders like anorexia or bulimia. If you are concerned about your teen's body image, eating or exercising habits, there are many great resources in Manitoba that can help.

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