During puberty, many young people begin to think about their identity and wonder for the first time about who they really are. Young people also begin to worry more about how others perceive them. They question their own attributes. Are they attractive? Smart? Funny? Introverted? Artistic?
At this stage, young people may try on new identities, experiment with the way they look or act and explore new friendships and interests. They may act differently depending on whom they are with. These variations in behavior, appearance and interests can cause concern among parents and educators. But it is normal behavior as a young person “tries on” different identities to see what works for them.
Peer acceptance becomes more important at this stage in development. At this age, young people’s peer groups will usually be comprised of friends of the same gender and those maturing at a similar pace. Some childhood friendships will fade away.
Although tweens and teens at this stage seek greater independence, they also need adult understanding and guidance, which is where you fit in as a parent or caretaker. You can help young people navigate this time of their lives by listening to their concerns, being supportive and providing medically accurate and age-appropriate information about the changes they are experiencing.
It’s essential that parents and caretakers have conversations with children about their interests and friendships, so their tweens and teens know they can come to their parents and caretakers with questions and concerns. The easiest way to start these
conversations is to talk about issues as they come up in everyday life, like while watching TV together.
Have dinner together and talk about what is going on in your tween’s life: When they mention a new interest or hobby, you can say, “That’s really great that you are trying new things! Are there other new things you are interested in these days?”
While watching a TV show or movie together: If you notice there is a character who is dealing with peer pressure, you can ask, “Are there times when you want to fit in and feel like you should do what your friends are doing?”