University of Illinois Extension

Teen Life: The Fun Years?

Cheryl Geitner, Family Life Educator

Adolescence is a time of major changes - including physical, intellectual, emotional and social growth. As adults, we have to tend to the developmental needs of teens who are no longer children but not yet adults.

Teens are trying to figure out who they are and how to become an adult. They will explore new relationships with others, both boys and girls, as they develop their own identity. They learn by experimentation how to interact with others in more adult ways.

And, this can cause us a lot of worry. We still want to know who their friends are and set appropriate limits. We need to give them opportunities to form positive relationships with peers in a safe environment.

Adolescents develop their own definition of what it means to be male or female. As adults, we need to provide opportunities for teens to understand their sexual growth so that they can develop healthy values and attitudes about their own sexuality. We need to help them deal with their physical changes - which may not fit society's perception of the "perfect body."

As teens establish their independence, our parenting role changes from maintaining control over most aspects of their lives to allowing them to become self-reliant. Teens need some room to be responsible for their own decisions and to be accountable for the consequences of those decisions. When they make the wrong decision, they need the support and guidance of adults so that they can learn from their experiences.