A Parent’s Guide to Surviving the Teen Years
Roxy Krawczyk, Middle School Teacher.
Parenting a tween can be a daunting task. We often hear parents bemoaning the alien that seems to have taken over their sweet, darling child and left them with a moody, defiant teenager. They worry that this new phase will be permanent, and they worry even more that they are ill-equipped to deal with it.
Never fear! The transition from childhood to adolescence is indeed a marked one, but it is simply another phase of normal human development. Knowing what changes are taking place inside your adolescent’s body and brain can help you understand what to expect, and being aware of their shifting needs and priorities can help you keep your own expectations in check. The tween years can look different for each child, but there are some developmental markers that are universal. Knowing what’s coming will help you maintain your sanity, and theirs.
Models of Psychological Development
Jean Piaget (1896-1980)
One of the first scientists to propose that human development happened in stages, as opposed to a singular, uninterrupted progression, was the Swiss developmental psychologist Jean Piaget. Still prominently studied in child development education today, Piaget’s theory suggests that children progress through four distinct stages of development: sensorimotor (0-2 years), preoperational (2-6 years), concrete operational (7-11 years), and formal operational (11 years-adult). In each of these periods, the individual develops a specific set of skills and becomes capable of new levels of thought which were previously inaccessible. The adolescent falls into Piaget’s final stage of formal operational thought. In this stage, Piaget proposed, adolescents begin to reason abstractly and think in hypothetical terms.
Erik Erikson (1902-1994)
Another leading developmental psychologist was the German-born American scientist, Erik Erikson, known for his theory on psychosocial development. According to Erikson, people go through eight stages, confronting (and hopefully mastering) a new personal and/or social challenge in each. Erikson is perhaps most famous for coining the phrase “identity crisis,” and in no other stage is this particular challenge more evident in the adolescent stage. During this period, the adolescent is working on developing his or her personal identity. This is a critical time for individuals to determine who they are, where their values lie, and in what ways they can contribute to the communities around them.
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