Age Group: 12 – 15 years
Development Information: 12 – 15 years
- Continue to grow taller and bigger
- Girls begin breast development between the ages of 9 and 13
- Girls begin menstruation (average age of 12.75)
- Boys- testes begin to enlarge between the ages of 9.5-13.5
- Skin changes can occur (can cause acne and be embarrassing)
- These changes can be embarrassing and/or uncomfortable for your child. Your child may begin to feel self-conscious regarding their bodies.
- Talk with your child about changes that will happen and listen to your child’s feelings about these changes.
- Mood swings can be common during this age (happy to angry in one minute!)
- Preteens and young teens may feel emotions more intensely than adults
- Your child is more likely to be impulsive an adult would be
- Preteens and young teens may be uncomfortable with these new emotions (just as uncomfortable as you are)
- Increase in abstract thinking- your child will be able to think about what could happen rather than what did happen
- Your child can fantasize and speculate
- Your child is now more likely to question your rules and values rather than follow them because “you said so”
- Things may often seem unfair to your child
- Friends become very important
- Friends can be both supportive and negative influences
- Participation in secret clubs or groups is normal
- Your child may keep secrets from you- this is normal and should not be problematic unless you see signs of dangerous behaviors
- Spends less time with family and may be embarrassed to be around parents (this is normal and a form of independence)
- Let your child know that you still want to spend time together AND that you want them to learn to be independent
- Your child may lose self-confidence or self-esteem during this time (because of physical changes and worries about fitting in with friends)
- No child develops the same way or at the same time as another child
- If your child has always reacted badly to change in his or her life, this time period may be more challenging for him/her
- Remember to be involved with your child. Your opinion and support still matter
Health Information: 12 – 15 years
Signs of Depression
- Persistent feelings of sadness, emptiness, or anxiousness
- Feelings of hopelessness and/or gloom
- Feeling guilty, worthless, helpless
- Irritable or restless
- Losing interest in activities/hobbies that used to be enjoyable
- Decrease in energy, feeling of fatigue
- Difficulties concentrating, making decisions, and remembering details
- Changes in sleep patterns- either insomnia, waking up too early, or sleeping too much
- Changes in eating patterns- loss of appetite or eating too much
- Thought of suicide, attempts of suicide
- Aches, pains, cramps, stomach problems that are persistent and are not eliminated with treatment
Signs of Anxiety Disorders
- Constant worry accompanied by physical symptoms such as headaches, fatigue, muscle tension, difficulty swallowing, irritability, sweating, hot flashes, and trembling. (Generalized Anxiety Disorder)
- Persistent and unwelcome thoughts or images. Need to engage in rituals. May need to check things repeatedly or may be obsessed with things like cleanliness. (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder)
- Sudden feelings of terror or panic accompanied by physical symptoms such as racing heart beat, sweating, weak/faint feeling, dizzy feeling, numbness in hands, and feeling of nausea. (Panic Disorder)
- Persistent thoughts and memories of frightening events in the past. May have sleep problems, feel detached/ numb, or be startled easily. (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder)
- Persistent and intense fear that one is being watched, judged, and made fun of by others. Fear of being embarrassed in front of others. Physical symptoms can include: blushing, sweating, trembling, nausea, and difficulty talking. (Social Anxiety Disorder)
Safety Information: 12 – 15 years
Internet Safety (from the US Department of Justice, FBI Publications)
Signs that your child may be at risk on-line
- Your child is on-line often and spends large amounts of time on-line, especially at night
- There is child pornography on your computer
- Your child is receiving phone calls from phone numbers that you do not recognize OR is making calls (sometimes long distance) to numbers you don’t know
- Your child is receiving mail, gifts, or packages from addresses you do not recognize
- When you enter the room, your child quickly changes the computer screen or turns off the computer monitor
- Your child is withdrawing from your family
- Your child uses an on-line account at another location (besides your residence)
What parents can do if they suspect their child is being victimized on-line
- Talk with your child about on-line predators and the dangers involved. Let him or her know that you are concerned.
- Review content on your child’s computer. Look for warning signs like pornography and/or sexual communication
- Use Caller ID services on phones that your child uses. Ask your telephone company about a service that allows you to reject any calls that you block.
- Purchase a device that shows a listing of calls made from your phone (or ask your phone company). Use the redial feature on the phone to dial the last number called.
- Monitor your child’s access to the internet. Monitor the use of chat rooms, instant messages, etc. Check your child’s email for suspicious messages.
Contact police, FBI, and National Center for Missing and Exploited Children if any of the following have occurred:
- Anyone in your household has received child pornography
- Your child has been (or is being) sexually solicited by someone who knows that your child is under the age of 18
- Your child has been (or is) receiving sexually explicit messages from someone who knows that your child is under the age of 18
“If one of these scenarios occurs, keep the computer turned off in order to preserve any evidence for future law enforcement use. Unless directed to do so by the law enforcement agency, you should not attempt to copy any of the images and/or text found on the computer.”
What you can do to decrease your child’s risk of being exploited on-line
- Talk to your child about on-line risks and what sexual victimization might look like
- Go on-line together with your child. Have them show you their favorite sites.
- Do not keep a computer in your child’s bedroom. Instead, keep in a common area of the house
- Use blocking or parental control software on your computer. Strictly monitor any use of chat rooms
- Randomly check your child’s email account and look through the US mail for anything suspicious. Let your child know why you may be looking at their email account. Don’t read the email or mail that is not suspicious.
- Teach and model different things to do on-line besides chat rooms and instant messaging.
- Get educated about the types of blocks/security that are on your child’s computers at school, the library, and at friends homes.
- Remember that it is not your child’s fault if he or she is sexually exploited. Let your child know that it will never be his or her fault if something happens.
- Tell your child that he or she:
- should never agree to meet face to face with someone he or she met on-line
- should never upload pictures of him or herself to send to someone he or she does not know
- should never give out identifying information such as his or her home address, school, or phone number
- should never download picture files from someone he or she does not know
- should ignore any messages that he or she may receive that may be sexually explicit, harassing, or obscene
- should tell you if any of these things have happened to him or her
- should remember that something told to him or her online may or may not be true
School Issues: 12 – 15 years
Map of school districts/ links to each site for calendar of school activities
Homework helping tips: (from the U.S. Department of Education, www.ed.gov)
- Let your teen set a time to do homework each night. If your teen doesn’t have enough time for homework because of other activities, encourage him or her to cut something out of the schedule.
- Turn off the TV/radio/video games/internet. Take away cell or other phones. If your household is noisy, try to have everyone participate in quiet activities during this time. If distractions can’t be avoided, the library may be a good option for your teen.
- Make sure you teen has supplies to complete homework (pencils, pens, erasers, ruler, etc.). Check with your school if you need assistance with obtaining supplies.
- Take an interest in your teen’s homework and school day. Ask about what he or she is learning and visit the school during events (parent-teacher conferences, recitals, etc.).
- Find out what your teen’s school expects from homework. Ask your teen’s teachers how you can help your child.
- Answer questions about homework if you can but don’t do your teen’s homework for him/her.
- Ask if your teen wants you to look at homework that he or she has finished.
- Help your teen stay organized.
- Talk about good school work habits (not waiting until the last minute, taking practice tests, reading directions FIRST, skipping difficult questions on tests and coming back to them at the end, etc.)
- If your teen seems frustrated, tell him or her that you KNOW he or she can do it. Ask if he or she would like help.
- Praise your teen and encourage effort.
What is Bullying? (From the University of Colorado at Boulder, Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence, Safe School Fact Sheets, Bullying Prevention: An Overview of Bullying)
Bullying is an intentional harming of another person that occurs repeatedly over time. The bully has power over the people he or she bullies. It can take many forms including:
- Physical violence
- Verbal threats or harassment (including spreading rumors)
- Indirect bullying through: intentionally leaving someone out, social isolation, obscene gestures
- Cyber-bullying (instant messages, chat rooms, myspace/facebook pages)
Signs that your child is being bullied (from US Dept. or Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Admin, National Mental Health Information Center, www.samhsa.gov)
- Your child comes home with dirty/damaged/torn clothes, books, or other property
- Your child often “loses” things and can’t explain what happened
- Your child comes home with injuries/cuts/bruises and can’t explain what cause them
- Your child’s grades decline and he or she loses interest in going to school
- Your child doesn’t spend time with peers after school and doesn’t bring classmates over to his/her house
- Your child is hesitant/scared/nervous before going to school
- Your child takes strange routes to go to and from school
- Your child seems unhappy/depressed or can have mood swings and become irritated/angry
- Your child has headaches, stomach aches, less of an appetite
- Your child’s sleep is disturbed- can have nightmares or cry during sleep
- Your child steals money or asks for extra money (this can be used to give to bullies)
What you can do if your child is being bullied (from US Dept. or Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Admin, National Mental Health Information Center, www.samhsa.gov)
- Take the situation seriously. Don’t assume that it is ok or that everyone gets bullied.
- Focus on your child. Listen to him/her, don’t blame him/her, empathize, ask questions to find out details of the situation (Who? What? How often? Where?), do NOT suggest that your child “fight back,” and don’t let your emotions take over during the next steps.
- Contact the school (through the social worker, teacher, principal, guidance counselor) and voice your concerns (don’t let emotions take over). Make sure the school takes the situation seriously too.
- Work with the school. Let the school know you want to work together with them.
- Have school personnel attempt to set up a meeting between you and the bully’s caregiver(s). Don’t contact the bully’s caregiver(s) yourself.
- Guarantee that your child is protected at school. Communicate with the school and ensure that teachers/administrators are aware of the situation and are closely monitoring it.
- Encourage your child to meet friendly classmates and to spend time with them outside of school.
- Help your child meet friends in different environments (clubs, sports, volunteering)
Signs that your child is a bully (from US Dept. or Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Admin, National Mental Health Information Center, www.samhsa.gov
- Your child is often aggressive, spiteful, and disagrees with/opposes almost everything
- Your child seems to have a need to be in control and/or dominate over others
- Your child seems to manipulate others
- Your child teases, harasses, or insults others (and seems to enjoy doing it)
What you can do if your child is a bully(from US Dept. or Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Admin, National Mental Health Information Center, www.samhsa.gov)
- Let your child know that you take bullying seriously and that it is not acceptable.
- Make clear rules for your child and consistently follow them. Use punishments (not physical or hostile) when rules are broken.
- Praise your child when he or she is following rules.
- Find out about your child’s activities (so that you can monitor them) and spend more time with him or her.
- Encourage your child to become involved in activities that promote positive social behaviors like music, non-violent sports or clubs.
- Work with school personnel and let them know you are concerned about your child. Ensure that school personnel are not tolerating any bullying.
- Seek the help of a counselor or mental health provider if you or your child needs additional support.
-Building Relationships with School Staff (from the U.S. Department of Education, www.ed.gov)
- Meet with your child’s teacher(s) early in the school year. Set an appointment to talk or stop in after school and introduce yourself.
- Let your child’s teacher(s) know if he or she is having problems with homework. Work together to figure out a plan that will work for your child.
- When meeting with or talking to your child’s teacher(s), remember that you are both working together. Approach teachers while keeping this in mind.
- Make sure that you understand what the teacher expects from you and your child. Make sure that the teacher understands what you and your child expect from him or her.
- Keep communicating with teachers throughout the year. Don’t wait for your child to get in trouble (or have a problem) to meet the teacher! If you only talk about negative things, your relationships with teachers will be negative.
Discipline Information: 12 – 15 years
(revised by Kimberly Greder, Iowa State University, University Extension, revised April 2003)
Discipline at this age is more about building a good relationship with your child (ren)
- Listen to your child and help him/her acknowledge feelings. For example, if your child says “I didn’t get invited to a classmate’s birthday party,” you could say “It sounds like you are feeling left out.”
- Remember that your child is changing physically, socially, and emotionally. It is normal for him/her to want to be independent, spend more time with friends, and challenge your authority.
- Praise good behavior! Your child will learn to repeat good behaviors if they are encouraged and/or if privileges are given in response. Be specific with your praise (“Thank you for cleaning up your room. It looks great.”)
- Give rewards for good behavior. Rewards don’t have to be “things.” Extra privileges (staying up later, inviting a friend over) and spending one on one time with your child are excellent rewards.
- Plan and do things together as a family. Let your child help plan family activities.
- Use reflective listening. When you are talking with your child, listen to him/her and summarize what he/she is saying. This will let your child know you understand him/her and gives him/her a chance to clarify if you aren’t “getting it”.
- Make sure to spend one on one time with your child.
- Take advantage of time in the car/on the bus together to talk with your child. For example, you can ask about his/her day (what will you be doing today? What did you do today?)
- Let your child know what your values are. Let them know what you think is important and find out what they think is important.
- Have regular family meetings.
Tips for dealing with problems that will occur
- Express your own feelings about the situation by using “I” statements. For example, “I get worried when you come home late and don’t call because I don’t know where you are” instead of “You shouldn’t be coming home late without calling.”
- Let your child experience natural consequences. For example, if your child forgets his/her lunch at home; allow him/her to feel how hungry he/she gets. Don’t keep lecturing your child; let him/her remember on his/her own.
- Give consequences that match the problem behavior. They should relate to the problem and be reasonable. Let your child know what these consequences will be. For example, if your child uses too many cell phone minutes one month, take away their phone for a few days.
- Work with your child to figure out a solution. Listen to his or her ideas and give ideas of your own. Come up with a solution you can both live with.
- Remember to follow through and stick to your word. If you or your children have agreed to something, stick to the agreement.
- Don’t discipline your child when you are angry or upset. Wait until you are calm.
- Don’t discipline your child when he or she is angry or upset. Wait until they are calm.
- Give respect to get respect.
(by Mary Casey-Goldstein, Kevin Haggerty, and Richard Catalano (2002). “Raising Healthy Children Navigating Independence Booster Session.” Funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse)
- Talking too much. Do you get tired of hearing yourself lecture your child? If yes, chances are you are talking too much and not listening enough.
- Not developing along with our child. Parents can’t use the same techniques when their child is 10 as they did when their child was 5.
- Focusing on negative behaviors and paying attention to your child when they do something you don’t approve of. “You raise what you praise.” If you focus on the bad behaviors, those are what you will see.
- Telling children what they shouldn’t do instead of what they should do. Give your child examples of behaviors that you want them to repeat.
- Reacting to children only after they have made a mistake. Parents need to set up rules for their children before problems occur, not in response to problems that have already occurred.
- Forgetting to have fun together.
Development (Written by Virginia K. Molgaard, edited by Laura Miller, Iowa State University; University Extension, December 1993)
AODA Information: 12 – 15 years
Alcohol and other drugs (Adapted from US Dept. of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Admin, Center for Substance Abuse Prevention, www.samhsa.gov, family guide)
Warning Signs that your child may have a problem with alcohol
- Drinking until he or she is drunk on a regular basis
- Lying about how much he or she drinks or how often he or she drinks
- If he or she believes that he or she has to drink in order to have fun
- Being hungover often
- If he or she feels worn-out, depressed or suicidal
- If he or she has experienced “black-outs” (forgetting what happened and what he or she did) while drinking
Warning Signs that your child may be abusing club drugs (Ecstasy, GHB, Ketamine, Rohypnol)
- Difficulty remembering things that he or she did or said
- Coordination problems, dizziness, fainting
- Difficulty sleeping
Warning Signs that your child may be abusing Cocaine
- Eyes are red or bloodshot
- Frequent runny nose or sniffing
- Changes in eating or sleeping habits
- Changes in who his or her friends are
- Changes in school grades or behavior at school
- Depression, withdrawn, tired, or be unconcerned with personal appearance
- Loss of interests in friends, family, school, and/or activities that he or she used to enjoy
- A frequent need for money/stealing money
Warning Signs that your child may be abusing Hallucinogens (LSD, Mushrooms, PCP, Ecstasy)
- Distorted senses (sight, hearing, touch)
- Dilated pupils
- Anxiousness and/or paranoia
- Frequent mood swings
- Feeling of faintness
- Irrational behaviors
Warning Signs that your child may be abusing Heroin
- Impaired mental functions
- Slowed breathing
- Constricted pupils
- SIGNS OF OVERDOSE: pinpoint sized pupils, clammy skin, shallow breathing, convulsions, coma
Warning Signs that your child may be abusing Inhalants
- Speech is slurred
- Appears drunk or dizzy
- Breath odor is unusual
- Clothing smells like chemicals
- Paint stains on his or her body/face
- Red eyes and runny nose
Warning Signs that your child may be abusing Marijuana
- Appears dizzy or has trouble walking
- Eyes are red or bloodshot
- Clothing and hair smells
- Troubles remembering things that just happened (trouble with short term memory)
- Acting overly silly for no apparent reason
Warning Signs that your child may be abusing Methamphetamines
- He or she cannot sleep
- Has an increased sensitivity to noise
- Has nervous physical energy (like scratching)
- Irritable, dizzy, or confused
- Extreme anorexia
- Has tremors/convulsions
- Increase in heart rate and/or blood pressure
- He or she owns inhaling paraphernalia (razor blades, mirrors, straws)
- He or she owns injecting paraphernalia (syringes, heated spoons, tubing)
Warning Signs that your child may be abusing Steroids
- Baldness, developing breasts, impotence (for boys only)
- Facial hair growth, voice deepens, breast reduction (for girls only)
- Yellowish skin (jaundice)
- Feet or ankles are swollen
- Has Aching Joints
- Bad breath
- Large mood swings
- Nervousness and/or trembling
What parents can do (from the Surgeon General’s Guide to Action for Families)
- Get involved in your children’s lives. Be supportive and nurturing.
- While encouraging independence, set some limits for your children.
- Set clear limits and rules. Communicate these limits and rules with your children. Involve them in setting up these limits and rules.
- Enforce the rules and limits you have made.
- Set rules about alcohol and other drug use.
- Talk to your children about alcohol and other drugs. Listen to and respect your children’s opinions and feelings.
- Talk about the consequences of using alcohol and other drugs (physical, emotional, etc.)
- Explain how you feel about underage drinking and drug use. Make your own expectations about drinking/using drugs clear to your children.
- Don’t give alcohol or other drugs to your children. This will send a mixed message.
- Help your teen find activities that don’t involve drinking or other drug use.
- If you are worried that your teen is too involved in underage drinking or drug use, help them obtain professional guidance.
- Be a good role model. Don’t drink and drive (or drive a boat after drinking), and don’t drink too often or too much in front of your children. Don’t use or sell drugs (unless you have a prescription).
- Work with other parents, professionals, and school staff to help send a clear message that alcohol and other drugs can be dangerous.
- Answer questions about alcohol and other drugs. Visit www.drugabuse.gov – for suggestions. This website offers frequently asked adolescent questions about drugs and possible answers