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Stepping into Adolescence: What Parents Should Know

Stepping into Adolescence: What Parents Should Know


Stepping into Adolescence: What Parents Should Know


Adolescence can be bittersweet. The feelings associated with it usually depend not so much on what a teen experiences, but on how they handle those experiences. Knowing this, you will want to help your child in the best way you can.

Teens can be dramatic or angry for no apparent justifiable reason. They can be reckless and do things adults may call “stupid.” There are immense pressures that make their lives challenging, even traumatic. There will be risks along the way that threaten their health and future. An unhappy adolescence can make them feel jaded, marring their view of life.

To help your teen have a happy adolescence and become a resilient, responsible adult, there are some fundamental facts that you should be aware of. Knowledge is empowering, and knowing that you can bring in professional help when necessary is reassuring.


  • Raging hormones can drive them “crazy.” Impulsive, melodramatic, egocentric, unappreciative—these are just some words you may use to describe your teen because of insensitive or unreasonable behavior. You may be dismayed at how fast their moods and perspectives change; it is almost like having a “Jekyll and Hyde” under your roof.

Their raging hormones are fueling growth spurts and physical changes. These can make your child feel ambivalent, confused, awkward, clumsy, and sensitive about their weight and appearance. Emotionally, they may experience crushes and other stresses, and be more vulnerable to low self-esteem, depression, anxiety, and related conditions. 


  • The brain is still “under construction.” Your teens may look like adults on the outside, but inside, they are still immature, especially their brains. According to Strauch (2003), “the connections between neurons affecting emotional, physical and mental abilities are incomplete” (cited in Erin Morgan’s Adolescent Growth and Development, VirginiaCooperative Extension).

Specifically, the frontal lobe, which controls important functions like attention, empathy, and impulsivity, does not reach maturity until age 25. This can explain why your teen may exhibit difficulty in controlling their impulses, emotions, and insights.


  • Teenagers are curious. It is common for teens to experiment and try different things to satisfy their thirst for knowledge and new experiences. Your child is no different. This exploration can change their perspectives and preferences for a long time, if not permanently.

Unfortunately, not every new experience is positive. Some can bring a lot of negativity. Unguided, your teen’s experiments or risky behaviors may lead to life-changing or unhappy consequences like teen pregnancy, teen parenthood, substance abuse, etc.


  • They are in a critical stage of self-discovery. “Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom,” says Aristotle. This process usually becomes serious during adolescence. After being carefree as a young child, your teen must start figuring out their identity, which is key to finding direction in life. This can be tough, considering that your child’s identity and uniqueness are constantly evolving as they whirl around many influential persons and factors, including your family. With so many challenges and stresses, it is easy for them to lose sight of what they want to be, or become cynical along the way.
  • Family can be their first source of overwhelm. Your teen may act tough, defiant, and egocentric, but they are easily influenced by your family because they love you. Confronted with family issues, wanting to be appreciated, or wanting to make parents feel proud, they may get lost and confused along the way. Witnessing parental conflicts and getting caught up in family problems can be too much for them. Seeing their role models (you and your spouse) having arguments can be painful; they may not understand why loving relationships can hurt at the same time.
  • Teens are vulnerable to emotional conditions. Hormonal/physical/brain changes, the quest for new experiences and identity, and the societal, familial, academic, and peer pressure teens face can make life unduly difficult and leave them vulnerable to negative feelings and emotional conditions. This is why you need to be there for them, even if they don’t seem to need you. Left on their own to make decisions, your child can fall in with the wrong friends. They can lose sight of their goals and passions. They can become unhappy, isolated, and saddled with symptoms of depression or anxiety.


There are certain things that you can’t change in your child’s life. Life transitions, milestones, and the associated challenges are inevitable battles they must face and win or lose. Making mistakes is normal and can teach important lessons. However, when mistakes are fast and frequent, they can stagger your child. When complications—failed relationships, peer pressure, disappointing academic performance, adjustment and interacting difficulties, etc.—set in, be warned and be ready to help.

Remember, despite these challenges, the teen years can be among the best years of your child’s life. If you want them to one day look back and see a happy adolescence, you have the power to make that happen. Their success partly depends on you. While your child is the main player in their own “game of life,” your love, support, and informed action can make a great difference. Bringing in a professional counselor independently contracted with Carolina Counseling Services – Pittsboro, NC, can help make you an empowered parent and your child a resilient teen.

Looking for more knowledge and for someone to talk to about your teen’s challenges? Call Carolina Counseling Services – Pittsboro, NC.


Serving Areas: Carolina Counseling Services – Pittsboro, NC

Counties: Chatham, Alamance, Durham, Harnett, Lee, Moore, Orange, Randolph, Wake, NC
Areas: Pittsboro NC, Gulf NC, Hickory Mountain NC, Hadley NC, Siler City NC, Wilsonville NC, Fearrington NC, Mandale NC, Bear Creek NC, Albright NC
Zip Codes: 27312, 27344, 27207, 27228, 27256, 27559

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Gail Gustafson, MSW, LCSW

Specializes in: (Ages 9+) Adolescents and Adults, Individuals, Couples and Families. PTSD/Trauma, EMDR, Adoption, Drug/Alcohol/Substance Abuse addiction, Anxiety, Depression, Bi-polar, Life Transitions, Grief and Loss, Parenting, Family, couples and marriage counseling.
 Insurance: BCBS, Tricare/ Tricare Prime Tricare Select/Extra/Retired and Cash (Credit Cards Accepted, HSA and FSA )
 Credit Cards: Visa, Mastercard, Discover and American Express

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