Children must pass through several stages, or take specific steps, on their road to becoming adults. For most people, there are four or five such stages of growth where they learn certain things: infancy (birth to age two), early childhood (ages 3 to 8 years), later childhood (ages 9 to 12) and adolescence (ages 13 to 18). Persons 18 and over are considered adults in our society. Of course, there are some who will try to act older than their years. But, for the most part, most everybody grows in this same pattern. Parents learn much about taking care of their babies and young children. At the hospital or with the doctor, you might pick up information about what to feed them or how long they should sleep. Later, school staff may remind you about the importance of talking and reading to your young children. You can also see how your friends or relatives treat their kids. You cannot say the same thing about learning to talk with teenagers (adolescents). It seems like everyone, even teachers and neighbors, have problems understanding them. Giving up, you might turn to doing and saying the same things your parents did with you. But those were other times!
You can begin to understand this age group if you look at its place on the growth sequence. Notice how it’s right next to the adult stage, the last step before being an adult. This is a time for adolescents to decide about their future line of work and think about starting their own families in a few years. One of the first things they must do is to start making their own decisions. For example adolescents can begin to decide what to buy with their own money or who will be their friend. To do this they must put a little distance between themselves and their parents. This does not mean that you can’t continue to “look after them” or help them when needed. You should, as much as possible, let them learn from the results of their actions. Adolescents also need to be around other adults, both male and female. These can be relatives, neighbors, or teachers. Of course, they should be positive role models. Your teenagers can learn from them about things like how to fix the car, getting along with others, or ideas for future jobs. Finally, don’t worry if they want to spend time alone. Adolescents can “spend hours” day dreaming about their future life. They might be planning the things they can do or will buy “when they grow up.” Remember, to travel far, one begins with the first few steps!
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