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Adolescence Development

Posted by on January 30, 2013

(14-18 years old)

Physically, many adolescents are moving beyond the “awkward stage.”

Between ages 14 and 18, most boys and girls outgrow the awkwardness of puberty, but some boys are still growing at a fast pace. Many boys and girls are concerned with body image and often compare their bodies with others. Try to avoid comparing your mentee to other youth.

The teenage years are also a great time to reinforce good health and physical activity habits. If you model eating well and engaging in regular physical activity, you may find that you have a positive influence on your mentee’s habits.

Teenagers make strides toward defining their identities and exploring their relationships.

Socially, teens are motivated by a strong desire to attain status within their peer group and be recognized as unique individuals. Older teens tend to focus more on forming their identity and less on group belonging. Use this opportunity to help your mentee become engaged in service-learning and volunteering. These experiences enable teens to enjoy their increased independence and take on more adult leadership roles.

During adolescence, youth engage in more co-ed activities—especially dating. Co-ed group learning activities and recreational events provide teens with a safe environment to interact with members of the opposite sex. Teens who do not have secure relationships with caregivers are more likely to become involved in a serious romantic relationship as they try to meet their emotional needs and get the attention they crave—and may not receive—from their parents.

Judgment and reason take shape in the teenage years as youth begin to evaluate their choices.

During the later teen years, many youth develop higher levels of abstract thinking and problem-solving, allowing them to think through and evaluate the choices they make. Teens refine their beliefs and their sense of self, and many develop a greater level of concern about the community and concern for the well-being of others.

Though most teens have the ability to problem-solve, many need practice to hone this skill. Take time to help your mentee think through important decisions and evaluate the impact of alternatives.

Many teens are also beginning to plan for the future, thinking about employment, college, etc. Teens whose parents talk with them about their career and college aspirations tend to be better equipped to plan for the future. However, in some teens’ homes, the future is rarely a topic of conversation. For families dealing with severe financial pressures, poor living conditions and the fear of homelessness can supersede hopes for the future and college aspirations. While mentors can provide opportunities for mentees to reflect on and discuss their future, it’s important to keep a mentee’s living situation in mind during these discussions.

Many teenagers are leery of advice from adults.

Although they may need and want guidance from adults, most teenagers rarely ask for advice, turning instead to their peer group and/or to the Internet. Search for opportunities to connect with your mentee about issues that he’s concerned about. As you and your mentee get to know each other better, there may be instances in which you’ll feel comfortable talking about how you have faced a particular challenge—especially if it is relevant to your mentee’s experience.

Be careful about giving your mentee advice. Teens are often told what to do by the adults in their life, which causes them to tune out. Modeling problem-solving skills and helping your mentee learn to come up with her own solutions is more useful than giving her unwanted advice.

Be aware of your mentee’s developmental challenges.

Some teenagers are impacted by developmental roadblocks, such as limited parental support, a history of abuse, or a learning disability. These experiences can impede a young person’s development and impact his ability to develop positive peer relationships, leaving the adolescent more vulnerable to negative peer influences. As a mentor, it is important to recognize your mentee’s developmental challenges and seek out experiences that will help him to build skills and develop in positive ways.

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