In this section, you will read about the four aspects that typically define teenage development: what’s happening inside my body, what’s happening inside my mind, what’s happening inside my heart, what’s happening with other people. Hopefully, this will give you some insight into what is going on with your teen, and maybe even anticipate what lies ahead.
Before reading on, remember that each person is unique. It is entirely possible and normal that young people develop at different rates. Not everyone hits every milestone at exactly the same time. And not everyone experiences the changes with the same degree of intensity.
If you have concerns about your teen’s health and development, you should speak to a health and social services professional.
What’s happening inside my body
- I’m showing the first signs of puberty.
- I’m entering a major growth spurt.
- My motor skills are improving a lot. I’m starting to develop more control over my body.
- My awareness of the position and movement of my body in space is changing. I’m sometimes clumsier or feel bigger or smaller than I actually am.
What’s happening inside my head
- I’m living in the moment.
- I’m capable of logical reasoning based on concrete operations and visible/measurable facts.
- My intellectual interests are expanding: I love to learn!
- I’m trying to conform to social norms, to be like others.
- I’m able to consider different perspectives, but I still make choices based on my personal interests.
- I’m starting to test rules and boundaries.
- I have questions about puberty and sexuality.
- I’m curious about the adult world.
What’s happening inside my heart
- I’m developing an interest in attracting others and flirting, and starting to have romantic and sexual fantasies.
- I’m craving more independence.
- I need approval from others, including my parents (even if I don’t always let on that I do).
- I can sometimes be impulsive and have mood swings.
- I can sometimes feel embarrassed or worried about the changes happening in my body.
- I’m worried about being normal.
- I care about my appearance and what other people think about me.
- I’m starting to assert my identity and my tastes more.
What’s happening with others
- My friends are mostly like me.
- My friends are starting to become more and more important in my life and have more influence over me.
- I have a growing urge for independence.
- I’m having more conflicts with my parents.
- I’m starting to do odd jobs for money: babysitting, mowing the lawn, etc.
My main challenges
- Dealing with puberty.
- Forming a positive body image.
- Exploring my identity.
- Solidifying my feeling of academic achievement.
- Building meaningful friendships.
Inspired by Tessier, C. and Corneau, L. 2017. Le développement des enfants et des adolescents dans une perspective de promotion de la santé et de prévention en contexte scolaire. Institut national de santé publique du Québec. 43 pages.
In my body
- My puberty and growth are beginning or continuing.
- My sleep and wake cycle is changing. I go to sleep later and get up later.
- My sexuality is growing. I’m discovering more sensations related to desire and sexual excitement.
- I take more risks than before (climbing structures, crossing the street at the wrong place, doing stunts, refusing to wear protective sports gear, etc.).
- I could be looking for new experiences and sensations: activities, substance consumption, sexuality.
In my head
- I’m increasingly able to make assumptions and think about abstract things.
- I’ve developed my ability to anticipate consequences and weigh the for and against, but I still have difficulty in taking everything into consideration in order to make an objective decision.
- I understand social obligations and the concept of legality, but I still do not completely understand the reason for these obligations.
- I test rules, limits and social conventions.
- I think about my identity and question it. I test various facets of it. It’s the beginning of the identity crisis.
- I may have a feeling of being invincible. I still maintain magical thinking, such as “it only happens to other people.”
- I seek rewards, pleasures and sensations.
- I may be concerned about my physical appearance, but I begin to adapt to the changes that my body is experiencing with puberty.
- I ask questions, or wonder about sexuality.
In my heart
- I become more secretive. I need more privacy.
- I’m very committed to my friends.
- I have a strong feeling of being part of a group, a team, and identify with it.
- I’m very sensitive to social influences.
- I need the approval of others and fear rejection.
- When I’m nervous, I may act like a child again in order to reassure myself.
- I’m experiencing more and more different feelings and with great intensity. Sometimes I have difficulty in understanding them.
- I have mood swings and can be impulsive.
- My interest in love and sexuality is growing. I may experience my first romantic and sexual relationships.
- I may question my sexual orientation.
- My friends are very, very, very important! I conform to their values. On the other hand, I may move away from my family values.
- My group of friends becomes more mixed (boys and girls).
- I experience more and more conflicts with my parents. It’s normal, I’m trying to create my own identity!
- I may do some odd jobs for money: babysitting, cutting grass, etc.
My main challenges
- Adapting to high school.
- Making positive connections with others while respecting diversity.
- Affirming my identity.
- Consolidating my feeling of academic competence.
- Establishing significant friendships.
- Choosing a healthy lifestyle.
- Dealing with social influences when making choices.
Based on Tessier, C. and L. Corneau. 2017. Le développement des enfants et des adolescents dans une perspective de promotion de la santé et de prévention en contexte scolaire. Institut national de santé publique. 43 pages.
In my body
- My puberty continues and comes to an end.
- My body is almost that of an adult.
- I’m stronger and more skillful. In fact, I’m almost at the peak of my physical form!
- I take more risks in my behaviours (climbing structures, crossing the street at the wrong place, doing stunts, refusing to wear protective sports gear, etc.).
- I may have experienced my first sexual relations with someone.
- I may have tried to consume certain substances (alcohol, drugs and tobacco, including electronic cigarettes).
In my head
- I’ve developed my judgement and ability to make informed decisions, to plan and resolve problems.
- I begin to be able to set more concrete and realistic life goals.
- I begin to be able to compromise and establish limits.
- I begin to understand things from different points of view.
- I begin to be able to think about social obligations and to question them.
- I understand the concepts of justice, dignity, rights and social solidarity.
- I affirm my own identity.
- I ask questions and wonder about sexuality. These questions may be related to my own or other people’s experiences.
- My sense of responsibility and independence are increasing.
In my heart
- My values (social, moral, religious, sexual, etc.) are becoming more sophisticated.
- I’m becoming more selective in choosing my friends. I become more attached to them and our relations are more intimate.
- I’m developing my ability to be in an intimate relationship with a special person.
- I can still be very emotional and have difficulty in managing my stress and emotions.
- I feel ambivalent about being dependent on or independent from my parents.
- I begin to accept my parents’ advice and values.
- I’m better able to resist social influences and pressure from others.
- Romantic relationships are becoming more important in my life.
- The gang is less important, but friends continue to be present.
- I may have my first formal work experience.
My main challenges
- Finding my place in regard to my future as a student or worker.
- Entering an intimate relationship.
- Making a commitment as a citizen.
- Taking charge of my well-being and health.
- Being able to consult health services by myself.
Drawn from Tessier, C. and L. Corneau. 2017. Le développement des enfants et des adolescents dans une perspective de promotion de la santé et de prévention en contexte scolaire. Institut national de santé publique. 43 pages.
- Claes, Michel and Lannegrand-Willems, Lyda. 2014. La psychologie de l’adolescence, under the direction of Michel Claes and Lyda Lannegrand-Willems. Les presses de l’Université de Montréal.
- Direction de santé publique, Régie régionale de la santé et des services sociaux Lanaudière. 2003. Amour et sexualité chez les jeunes. Quand les parents font la différence.
- Sawyer et al. 2012. Adolescence: a foundation for future health. The Lancet, vol. 379, page 1632.
- Tessier, C. and Corneau, L. 2017. Le développement des enfants et des adolescents dans une perspective de promotion de la santé et de prévention en contexte scolaire. Institut national de santé publique du Québec. 43 pages.