What Is a Teenager?

From Child to Young Adult: The Teen Years Are a Time of Transition

Group portrait of cheerful female students standing in locker room
Getty Images/Caiaimage/Robert Daly

Most adults know what a 'teenager' is. If it has been a few years since you were a teen yourself, you may have forgotten what a teen really is.

The teen years are a time of change, learning and experimentation. Parents should keep this in mind through all of the ups and downs of parenting a teen.

What is a Teenager?

Teen or teenager is a term widely used to describe an age group between childhood and adulthood.

Generally, the accepted ages for teen or teenager are 13 to 19 years of age. 

The teen years are a time of transition from becoming a dependent child to a young adult who is capable of taking care of themselves. During this stage of transitional physical and mental human development, teens tend to seek independence and experiment with adult behaviors.

A Maturing Body

The teen years are a time of change and the most noticeable are those taking place in a teen's body. Children will become young adults and experience significant growth spurts throughout the teen years. 

This transition can be both joyous and troubling for teenagers. They will enjoy looking older yet may feel uncomfortable at the same time. This is particularly true for teens who develop slower than their friends.

They may feel awkward at times and will need help from their parents, both emotionally and with explanations of the physical changes they experience.

The Teen Mind and Attitude

Parents of teenagers often joke about their children's new and ever-changing attitudes. It is a complex time for teens because they struggle with peer pressure, hormonal changes and the desire to be independent.

Teens and their parents may argue and fight over trivial subjects.

They will also have a lot of fun as the teen turns into a young adult and enjoys more mature conversations and experiences.

The teen years are also the time when many behavioral problems become apparent. Troubled teens may act out in serious ways and endanger themselves or others. It is important to seek help at the first signs of risky behavior.

Learning Responsibility

Children have very few responsibilities other than their household chores and school work. As they become teenagers, all of that changes.

Teens should learn to become more responsible because these are life lessons that they will need when they are adults.

Responsibilities that are learned as teenagers include:

  • Complete tasks efficiently and correctly at home, school and work.
  • To care for their own personal hygiene and possessions.
  • Show compassion and care for other people.
  • To be socially responsible in their day to day lives and online.
  • Control their emotions and interact appropriately with people.
  • Understand that sexual activity can lead to consequences.
  • How to handle peer pressure situations like drinking, smoking and doing drugs.
  • Adult privileges like driving a car or having a bank account.
  • Hold a job and work well with others in a team.
  • The ability to earn and spend money wisely.

Exploring the Future

The teen years are also a time of exploration. This is the young adult's chance to shape their future and decide what they want to do after school.

It is exciting to think of the possibilities and have hopes and dreams about a career, family and life away from home.

The world is open to a teenager and it can be overwhelming at times. Parents should be careful about putting too much or too little pressure on making what they think is the 'right' decisions for their teen's future.

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