Adolescence typically describes the years between ages 13 and 19 and can be considered the transitional stage from childhood to adulthood. However, the physical and psychological changes that occur in adolescence can start earlier, during the preteen or "tween" years (ages 9 through 12). Adolescence can be a time of both disorientation and discovery. This transitional period can bring up issues of independence and self-identity; many adolescents and their peers face tough choices regarding school, sexuality, drugs, alcohol, and social life. Peer groups, romantic interests, and appearance tend to naturally increase in importance for some time during a teen's journey toward adulthood.
How Is Adolescence Defined?
Talking to Teens
Speaking openly with adolescents about the changes they are experiencing can be a challenge for any parent, especially given the shift in the parent-child relationship that can occur during this time. A clearer sense of what sorts of changes and obstacles teens can expect at this age can help equip parents for more fruitful conversations. Teens are in the process of developing adult-like capacities—but they aren’t there yet, and thoughtful guidance can go a long way.
Mental Health During the Teen Years
Many of the mental health issues people confront as adults begin to manifest in adolescence. On the flip side, teens can struggle with anxiety, depression, or other forms of distress that are developmentally appropriate but will not necessarily endure. Parents can help by learning how to identify worrying signs and taking a balanced approach to dealing with increasingly independent young people.