GI Joe says, “Knowing is Half The Battle” so…
Here are 7 Physical Changes to Look For as you Parent a Tween:
1. During the early teenage years, the body undergoes more development than at any other time, except the first two years of life. The best way to think about your teenager is UNDER CONSTRUCTION.
2. Young adolescents’ growth is accelerated and uneven with growth spurts occurring about two years earlier in girls than boys. That is why you can walk into just about any middle school classroom and feel like you have entered an episode of the “Attack of the Jungle Women”. The girls are taller than the boys. By the way, in general the girls do not like this. They understand that normally men are taller than women. And anything that makes them feel like they are not normal is a stressful experience.
3. Developmental growth includes signifigant increases in height, weight, and internal organ size as well as changes in skeletal and muscular systems. If your young teenager gains weight please do not make the mistake of making fun of them or freaking out about it. Don’t hire a physical trainer or start filling out Fat Camp registration forms. There is a great chance that their height will increase as well and if given time there body can balance itself out. The best thing you can do is to continue to teach them the life skill of nutritional eating and regular exercise.
4. Your young teenager may seem very clumsy, but there is a legitimate reason for it. Since bones are growing faster than muscles young adolescents may experience coordination issues. Actual growing pains result when muscles and tendons do not adequately protect bones. So if your young teenager comes to you after a nap complaining of their legs and joints hurting it might be growing pains.
5. A cascade of hormones signals the development of primary sex characteristics (genitalia) and secondary sex characteristics (breast development in girls and facial hair in boys) during this period. Girls tend to mature one to two years earlier than boys do. I call this the “hormone cocktail” and once it starts flowing in your teenager it brings with it wild mood swings. The “hormone cocktail” can cause your teenager to go to bed as a sweet little child and wake up as a moody pubescent nightmare.
6. Increased production of adrenal hormones affects skeletal growth, hair production, and skin changes. Your young teenager might struggle with acne during this stage. Acne can cause a lot of shame in your teenager. The best approach for responding to this is to teach them what they can control and what they can’t. They can control the maintenance of keeping their skin as clean as possible. With your help they can consult a dermatologist for help as well. What they can’t control is curing acne or making it go away instantly.
7. Young adolescents tend to have ravenous appetites and peculiar tastes. They will have a propensity for improper nutrition. This explains why they can eat a bag of Funyuns and a two liter of mountain dew and then ask what else you have to eat!
The best way to guide your teenager through this stage is to talk to them about it. Here is a video we posted a while back that will help encourage you to do just that!