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Perhaps as you held your newborn you tried to envision him at later stages - as, say, a teenager. At that time that image must have been difficult to imagine.
Yet children grow up quickly and the boy who, only a short while ago, still slept with a special blanket is now lobbying for an earring. Adolescence is the time when childhood is left behind and your young teen begins to cross the long bridge that separates childhood and the adult world.
That transition is not an easy time for either the adolescent or his parents. During this time, your son or daughter's body is being bombarded by hormones, which results in a growth surge, as well as the reproductive maturation that makes the teen physically capable of becoming a parent. For some young adolescents, this hormonal onslaught is tantamount to being on an emotional roller coaster, a difficult ride for the teen as well as for the rest of the family.
Adolescence is also a time when most children begin to pull away from their families. Once a homebody, your son may suddenly announce that he'd like to go away to camp for the summer rather than go on the annual family trek to the beach. Peers become more important than ever. Although your son used to (and still may) pretend to gag every time he saw kissing on television, he's discovering that girls aren't so bad; in fact, they're quite nice - and getting close to one may have become an intriguing prospect.
In this chapter, we will focus on the issues that your child faces as he enters adolescence. Peer pressure, burgeoning sexuality, and the quest for autonomy are some of the topics that we will discuss. First,though, let's cover the developmental milestones that children go through as they enter the adolescent years.
Adolescence is a stage of life when, with the exception of infancy, the body grows and changes more dramatically than at any other time. During these few years, your child will attain most of his adult height and become biologically capable of having his offspring. His reasoning capabilities will rise to a new level of complexity. As he prepares to make his own place in the world, he begins the process of discovering exactly what he wants that place to be. These are also years when it may seem as though you, his parent, have been pushed from the front to the backseat of his life. You may feel superfluous now that his friends, more than family, occupy his spare time.
These are exciting days of endless discoveries. But they are also filled with the pain of uncertainty, of not always knowing if one fits in. Watching your adolescent grapple with these doubts may sometimes seem like a rerun of your own early teens; perhaps you can still sense the sting of humiliation over being the shortest or the tallest, the most or the least developed in the class. You want to protect him from insecure feelings; you want somehow to devise a way to ensure that he stays confident about his sense of worth. Yet you also realize that you no longer have that kind of power over his life.
In this section, we will discuss the developmental milestones of early adolescence from physical, psychological, moral, and social perspectives. Keep in mind that although it is natural for your relationship with your child to change as he begins to grow up, this does not mean that it diminishes in importance. Strong parental support and guidance have never been as important as they are during adolescence.
The growth spurt is one of the first signs that a child is beginning puberty, the series of biological events that transform the immature body into one that is physically capable of reproduction.
As with any aspect of human development, there is no precise timetable. But there is a fixed sequence for the physical changes of adolescence. For example, the average boy begins his growth spurt at about age twelve. This doesn't mean, however, that as a parent you should be concerned if your thirteenyear-old is the shortest kid in his class. Chances are that everything is fine and that he is simply developing slower than his classmates. If at fifteen, however, he still hasn't begun a significant growth spurt, consult your adolescent's physician.
For girls, the average age at which the growth spurt begins is ten. The growth spurt, during which the child attains 98 percent of his adult height, usually lasts anywhere between two and three years but can be a lot shorter. During this time, a boy may grow as much as nine inches, while most girls add six or seven inches to their height.
Different parts of the body grow at different rates during this spurt. Perhaps you've wondered why your son's jeans are too short long before his shirt sleeves have crept far above his wrists? Typically, the adolescent leg grows faster than the body trunk. As a result, the legs stop their growth between six and nine months earlier than the rest of the body, while the shoulders and chest are the last parts to attain full growth. During the growth spurt, the bones of the face also change, with the features becoming sharper and less childlike.
As the body gets taller, its shape changes. The body of a girl becomes rounder. She develops breasts and a soft padding around what was once boy-like hips. Boys, on the other hand, lose their baby fat, becoming more muscular, with wider shoulders and thicker necks. Gone are the days when almost any girl in the class was a physical match for most any boy: Adolescent boys are physically stronger than their female counterparts because of their more muscular physical makeup. By contrast, adolescent girls can be reassured that women are more likely to live longer and enjoy better health and appear better able to tolerate stress than men...