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Adolescence - what's it about?

adolescence; adolescent; puberty; teenager;


An adolescent (say ad-oh-less-ent) is a person who has gone through puberty but is not yet fully mature - in other words, a teenager or sometimes someone who is 12 if puberty started early for them.

Changes during puberty and adolescence

  • There are lots of changes to your body and to the way that you think and feel during puberty – and there are many topics about this in the section 'Nearly teens'.
  • These changes don't stop when you reach about 13 or 14. You will continue to develop physically and mentally in many ways until you are an adult - usually people are not fully mature until they are about 25 years old!.
  • Even adults continue to change the ways they think and behave for all of their lives! You will go on trying new things and learning all the time. (Well hopefully, as you otherwise may lead a very boring life.)
    party all night and sleep all day!!

Changes in the way you think - cognitive (say cog-nit-iv) changes

making decisionsYoung people have to start making decisions for themselves - so they need to develop their decision making skills.

  • They can start to work out what they want, what they need to do to get it, what problems might occur and ways of solving those problems.
  • They can understand better how their decisions might affect other people.
  • They also need to take responsibility for their actions in a way which children are not able to do.

Topics such as Puberty - changes in thinking,  What to do - making decisions and Getting clever may be helpful.

Changes in your feelings - emotional changes

Teenagers often seem to be 'moody'.

  • learning about your own identityYou are becoming more sensitive to your own feelings and the feelings of others.
  • You are learning about your own sexuality.
  • You are learning about your own identity - who you are.
  • You are learning to accept and adapt to your strengths and weaknesses.
  • You are learning to relate to others in grown up ways.
  • You are learning that you really cannot have your own way all the time.
  • You are learning that you are not yet fully grown up, and you still have to do things that you are asked to do by your parents and your teachers. They are still responsible for your health, safety and wellbeing. There are still 'rules'.

This can be challenging and even frustrating, which can make you irritable and a bit hard to live with at times - both for yourself and those who are closest to you!  

there are still rules

Some topics you might find interesting:

Social changes - changes in how you see family and friends

For adolescents, friends and peers are really important.

Your family is still a big part of your life - after all they will always be there while friendships will come and go. However you will look more towards your friends for support, to talk over problems and spend more time with them. You may want to have a special boyfriend or girlfriend.

Some topics you might find interesting

getting long with your parentsTeenagers start to question what adults say and do, which can be a bit difficult for both teenagers and the adults in their lives. Getting along with your parents can become trickier. There is a topic Relationships with parents – working it out which could be useful. Respect and good manners are really important if you want to have good relationships with people.   

Problems in adolescence

With all these changes happening in a few short years there is a very good chance that every teenager will have problems from time to time.

It is really important that you have the support you need when you run into problems. You may be able to get that support from friends, but often it will be good to have an adult to talk things through with.

speak to a trusted adultDuring your time in primary school you will have talked about 'trusted adults'. They are people you know have your best interests at heart because they care about you. They could be your parents or caregivers, other family members such as an older brother or sister or grandparent, teachers, school counsellors, personal tutors, sports coaches or a neighbour. These people are still important supports for teenagers, just as they are for children.




Dr Kate says

Dr KateWhen you are an adolescent you will;

  • become more independent from your parents or caregivers 
  • work out who you are - your identity
  • find out more about your sexuality
  • learn about values and how you affect the people in your life as well as how they affect you
  • learn the skills you need to be able to find and keep a job and be independent
  • make mistakes - and learn from them. Everyone makes mistakes. Our topic I'm sorry may be helpful.

There are a whole lot of changes to cope with as you move from being a dependent child to becoming an independent adult. The good thing is that all adults have been through these changes so keep talking and listening to your trusted adults. They will understand - even if they seem quite old! (Well at least on the 'outside'.)

Mum - can I talk to you about....

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We've provided this information to help you to understand important things about staying healthy and happy. However, if you feel sick or unhappy, it is important to tell your mum or dad, a teacher or another grown-up.


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