By Nancy Firchow, M.L.S.
Middle adolescence is a time of blossoming development — the insecure, inwardly focused 13-year-old becomes a cheerful, charming 16-year-old looking toward the future. During this time your child's thinking skills take a decidedly adult turn, his body matures, and friends and social networks outside the family become increasingly important. Now is when you will really begin to get a glimpse of the adult your child will become.
Boys and girls still exhibit markedly different levels of physical maturity as they enter middle adolescence. Girls' rapid growth is generally tapering off, while many boys have yet to see the beginning of their much anticipated growth spurt. By the end of this period most girls will be near their adult height; boys may continue to grow until age 18 or 19.
Between 13 and 16 your child's ways of thinking about himself, others, and the world shift to a much more adult level. He enters middle adolescence with a focus on things he can experience here and now, and moves to being able to imagine the range of possibilities life holds. Expect the following changes as a progression of development rather than as age-based milestones:
During this period your child will continue to be an emotional pendulum: happy and at ease one year, troubled by self doubts the next. These swings will smooth out as your teen approaches the end of high school and gains more confidence in his own independence.
Remember that growth and development are influenced by many factors — including genetic, social, and cultural — and that each child is an individual who will develop at his own pace. The milestones presented here are averages; your child may progress more quickly or a little more slowly. You can help your child through this period of great change by showing support and listening to his worries and concerns. And as always, if any aspect of your child's development seems atypical, talk to his pediatrician and encourage your teen to ask questions as well.
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