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The ages 11 through 14 years are often referred to as early adolescence. These years are an exciting time of many varied and rapid changes. Your child grows taller and stronger and also starts to feel and think in more mature ways. You may feel amazed as you watch your child begin to turn into an adult. But this can be a confusing time for both kids and parents. Both must get used to the new person the child is becoming.
From ages 11 through 14, a child develops in four main areas:
Yearly doctor visits are important to detect problems and to make sure your adolescent is growing and developing as expected. During these visits, the doctor will do a physical exam and give your child any needed shots. The doctor will also ask questions about your child's friends, school, and activities to see how he or she is doing.
It is a good idea to give an adolescent some time alone with the doctor. This gives your child a chance to ask questions that he or she may not feel comfortable asking you.
Adolescents should also have yearly dental checkups to make sure their teeth are strong and healthy.
Call your doctor anytime you have a concern about your child's physical or emotional health, such as:
A call or visit to your child's doctor can help you keep a healthy outlook and know how to recognize a true problem. This may help relieve tension between you and your child.
Being the parent of an adolescent can be challenging. Even if your child pushes you away at times, you still play a very big role in your child’s life. Try to stay positive and keep the lines of communication open. While it is good to let your child make decisions, realize that adolescents need and want limits that are fair and firm.
To promote healthy development:
Throughout these years, it is important to let adolescents know they are loved and accepted, no matter what happens, even if at times you don't agree with what they do or how they act.
Learning about adolescent growth and development:
Seeing a doctor:
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Rapidly changing bodies, confusion, excitement, new social situations, and increased reasoning abilities make ages 11 to 14 a thrilling and sometimes challenging time for children and parents. Watching your child gradually mature is an amazing process. It also can be puzzling for parents who may wonder during this transition, "Do I have a child or an adult?" Since neither is the case, you must continually renegotiate your relationship with and learn about your evolving adolescent.
Although each adolescent develops at his or her individual pace, general growth and development patterns can be grouped into four main categories.
The years 11 through 14 are exciting and confusing. Many parents have concerns about how their children will handle the many physical and emotional changes that usually happen during this time. Some of these common concerns include:
During this time of trial and error, offer open, positive communication while providing clear and fair rules and consistent guidance. You significantly influence your adolescent's habits and attitudes, choices, and adjustments to physical changes. But realize that your child's way of doing things does not have to exactly match your own.
Help your child identify important issues and be prepared for increasing responsibilities. Allow your child the freedom to figure things out in his or her own way within the boundaries you have set. Parents walk a fine line between respecting a teen's need for independence and privacy and making sure that he or she does not make mistakes that have lifelong consequences.
Promote your adolescent's physical development by doing the following:
Promote your adolescent's healthy emotional and social development by doing the following:
Promote your adolescent's cognitive development by doing the following:
Promote your adolescent's sensory and motor development by doing the following:
Your child's doctor can help you discuss difficult issues with your adolescent if you ever are having trouble doing so on your own. Keep in mind that important subjects, such as sex, should be addressed long before you think your child will face them.
Talk to your child's doctor if you are concerned about your child's health or other issues. For example:
Call a doctor or a mental health professional if your child develops behavioral problems or signs of mental health problems. Signs may include:
Also be aware that these problems can sometimes be warning signs of suicide.
Routine checkups (usually once a year) allow your child's doctor to keep a close eye on your child's general health and development. You also can discuss any concerns you have during these appointments. It may help you to go with a prepared list of questions(What is a PDF document?).
These checkups are important to detect problems and to see if your child is growing and developing as expected. The doctor will do a physical exam, suggest any needed shots (immunizations), and ask questions about your child's social, academic, relationship, and mental health status. For information about recommended shots, see the topics:
Beginning in adolescence, most doctors like to spend some time alone with your child during the visit. Although many state laws are vague about adolescents' and teens' rights to medical confidentiality, most doctors will clarify expectations with you and your child. Ideally, you will all agree that anything your child discusses privately with the doctor will remain confidential, with few exceptions. This gives your child an opportunity to talk to the doctor about any issue he or she may not feel comfortable in sharing with you.
Adolescents and teens also need to have regular dental checkups and to be encouraged to brush and floss regularly.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) offers a variety of educational materials about parenting, general growth and development, immunizations, safety, disease prevention, and more. AAP guidelines for various conditions and links to other organizations are also available.
This American Social Health Association Web site provides a safe, educational, and fun place for teens to learn about their sexual health and about sexually transmitted infections (STIs). The Web site aims to help start conversations between parents and teens about sexual health. If you have questions or concerns about STIs, you can call the STI hotline.
This CDC website is for children 9 to 13 years old. It gives kids the information they need to make healthy lifestyle choices. There are interactive tools about fitness, safety, disease, stress, and more.
This nonprofit group rates media (such as TV shows, games, music, and movies) based on age appropriateness. The website also has information to help parents make informed choices about their child's use of computers, cell phones, and more. The group offers advice about how to teach media review skills to kids.
This website is sponsored by the Nemours Foundation. It has a wide range of information about children's health—from allergies and diseases to normal growth and development (birth to adolescence). This website offers separate areas for kids, teens, and parents, each providing age-appropriate information that the child or parent can understand. You can sign up to get weekly emails about your area of interest.
This Web site provides a variety of resources about protecting yourself and your family from Internet crimes. There is information about Internet safety for children, identity theft, general Internet safety, and Internet privacy.
Other Works ConsultedCromer B, et al. (2011). Adolescent development. In RM Kliegman et al., eds., Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics, 19th ed., pp. 649–659. Philadelphia: Saunders.Cuijpers P (2002). Effective ingredients of school-based drug prevention programs: A systematic review. Addictive Behaviors, 27(6): 1009–1023.Dweck CS, Master A (2009). Self-concept. In WB Carey et al., eds., Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrics, 4th ed., pp. 427–435. Philadelphia: Saunders Elsevier.Garrison W, Felice ME (2009). Adolescence. In WB Carey et al., eds., Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrics, 4th ed., pp. 62–73. Philadelphia: Saunders Elsevier.Hazen E, et al. (2008). Adolescent psychological development: A review. Pediatrics in Review, 29(5): 161–168.King RA (2007). Adolescence. In A Martin, FR Volkmar, eds., Lewis's Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 4th ed., pp. 279–291. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.Maehr J, Felice ME (2006). Eleven to fourteen years: Early-adolescence—Age of rapid changes. In SD Dixon, MT Stein, eds., Encounters With Children, 4th ed., pp. 535–563. Philadelphia: Mosby Elsevier.O'Keeffe GS, et al. (2011). The impact of social media on children, adolescents, and families. Pediatrics, 127(4): 800–804.Ozer EM, Irwin CE (2011). Psychological development. In CD Rudolph et al., eds., Rudolph’s Pediatrics, 22nd ed., pp. 271–272. New York: McGraw-Hill.Radzik M, et al. (2008). Common concerns of adolescents and their parents. In LS Neinstein et al., eds., Adolescent Health Care: A Practical Guide, 5th ed., pp. 969–972. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.Sass AE, Kaplan DW (2011). Adolescence. In WW Hay et al., eds., Current Diagnosis and Treatment: Pediatrics, 20th ed., pp. 104–144. New York: McGraw-Hill.Strasburger VC (2009). Media. In WB Carey et al., eds., Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrics, 4th ed., pp. 192–200. Philadelphia: Saunders Elsevier.Youngerblade LM, et al. (2009). Peers. In WB Carey et al., eds., Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrics, 4th ed., pp. 152–158. Philadelphia: Saunders Elsevier.
Last Revised: February 28, 2012
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review: Susan C. Kim, MD - Pediatrics & Louis Pellegrino, MD - Developmental Pediatrics
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