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Entering Adolescence: Developmental Milestones

Physical

  • As puberty begins, many changes occur in height, proportions, skin, hair, and mood.
  • Clumsy coordination – arms and legs grow first before the body can catch up.

Emotional/Social 

  • Interest in joining teams.
  • Learning to interact with peers in more complex interactions with many rules.
  • Mood swings due to changing hormones.

School

  • Homework load usually increases to encourage self-discipline.
  • Increased emphasis on group work.

Thinking

  • Improved problem-solving skills.
  • Becoming increasingly abstract.

Problem Behavior or Perfectly Normal?

When your child enters adolescence, there are many changes in not only physical appearance, but behavior as well. Even though these changes can be uncomfortable for parents (and preteens) they are usually normal behaviors. Here are some ways to distinguish between normal behavior and what could be preteen problem behavior.

Normal behavior is…

  • Being interested in clothing, music, and popular cultural trends.
  • Wanting to spend more time alone.
  • Sharing less with parents about life events.
  • Interest in spending more time with friends.
  • Positive risk taking: trying out for a team sport or play, calling someone they have a crush on, expressing a strong opinion.
  • Negative risk taking: dangerous stunts, minor vandalism, taking dares, experimenting with drugs, alcohol, or sex.

Risk taking behaviors are a part of this age group trying to become more independent from the family and discover their own identity, limitations, and strengths. When a preteen gets involved in more serious risk taking behaviors such as drugs or sex, peer pressure does play a role; however, it is more important to remember that parents still have a strong influence on the decisions their budding adolescent makes.

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