Normal Early Adolescent Development: Ages 11 to 13

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As tweens turn into teens, they begin developing quickly in many areas. It’s important to have a good understanding of normal child development so you can recognize the changes your child is experiencing.

Physical Development

Many teens begin to experience puberty during early adolescence. Both sexes tend to grow body hair and may develop oily hair and skin. The onset of puberty also means an increase in perspiration.

Girls begin developing breasts and hips. Many of them begin menstruating during early adolescence. Boys may start developing deeper voices and may have wet dreams. Both sexes may experience weight gain and growth spurts.

Teens who experience puberty without information ahead of time are often confused. Girls who mature early are at a higher risk of depression, substance abuse issues, and eating disorders. Talk to your teen about puberty and sexuality to ensure your teen has adequate information about what to expect during the teen years.

During early adolescence, it’s important to teach teens about hygiene issues. They may exhibit body odor or may appear to have oily hair if they aren’t washing regularly. Teach your teen how to shave properly and how to take care of their skin because acne is a common problem during this time. It’s also important to give them plenty of factual information about the changes they’re going through as early as possible.

Cognitive Development

During early adolescence teens begin to develop the ability to think abstractly. For the first time, they’re able to begin thinking not just about tangible objects, but they’re able to develop a better understanding of abstract concepts such as spirituality and trust.

They also begin to consider morality.

Instead of simply following the rules because that’s what they’re told to do, they can understand that morality isn’t always a black or white issue. It's a prime time to help teens develop their own moral compass.

This is also a time where teens begin to develop more intellectual interests. They’re able to start thinking more about the future, and not just about what’s happening today. It’s important to make sure teens understand the risks of certain behavior, such as drinking or sexual activity.

Social Development

The early teen years signal a dramatic shift in socialization. While younger children focus on family, teens begin to show a greater interest in peers. They tend to prefer to spend time with same-sex friends and fitting in becomes very important. It’s also an important time to ensure that teens have problem-solving skills to help them deal with issues such as peer pressure.

Conflict with parents is common as younger teens begin to recognize that their parents aren’t perfect. They begin to want to form their own identities, and as a result, they may begin to argue just for the sake of arguing.

It’s common for them to break rules just to see how their parents will react. It’s important to establish clear rules and follow through with consequences.

Emotional Development

During early adolescence, teens tend to be quite self-centered. They think the world revolves around them and struggle to consider how other people feel. As a result, they may struggle to recognize how their behavior affects other people.

Moodiness is common during this age. Younger teens can be irritable at times and may feel insecure quite often. They may come across as angry and at times, may resort to childish behavior. Younger teens need help learning how to manage stress in a healthy manner and they require guidance to help them learn how to cope with uncomfortable feelings.

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