Not quite a child, not yet an adult

The Daily Telegraph (Sydney) - Best Weekend - - FRONT PAGE -

Twins Luke (left) and Josh van Ratin­gen. hat adult would will­ingly re­visit their tor­tu­ous teenage years? All that un­cer­tainty, the er­ratic and dra­matic phys­i­cal development, the emo­tional roller­coaster, a de­sire for free­dom and in­de­pen­dence, the in­evitable con­flict with par­ents and sib­lings, an awk­ward sex­ual awak­en­ing, long­ing for school to end and real life to be­gin. It was hard enough liv­ing through it our­selves but for par­ents of teens to­day, the road seems rock­ier and more treach­er­ous than ever be­fore. Un­der­stand­ing the tim­ing and the process of teenage trans­for­ma­tion goes some way to help­ing par­ents nav­i­gate the ado­les­cence mine­field. Lead­ing child psy­chol­o­gists agree 14 is the cru­cial age for teenagers. It’s the be­gin­ning of the big­gest de­vel­op­men­tal phase out­side the first year of life: phys­i­cally, cog­ni­tively, be­haviourally and emo­tion­ally. War­ren Cann, chief ex­ec­u­tive of the Par­ent­ing Re­search Cen­tre, says the growth surge in ado­les­cence leads to an ar­ray of chal­lenges for kids and their par­ents. “The av­er­age girl will grow 24cm and the av­er­age boy will grow 25cm — t think about that.” It’s rapid, he says, a and un­fair, with the ex­trem­i­ties of the b body grow­ing faster or first, of­ten

LukeL van Ratin­gen, 14, Josh van Ratin­gen,R 14

TwinsT Luke and Josh van Ratin­gen bothbo agree the best thing about be­ing 14 is that they are con­sid­ered ma­ture but canca still be kids when they want.

“I’m at an age where you’re ma­ture bu but you can still act like a kid and have fu fun,” says Josh.

Luke adds: “The best thing is the fact yo you’re half ma­ture. You get the re­spect yo you need from older peo­ple but you can st still goof around and be a child.” giv­ing teens a gan­gly look. “This is rather un­for­tu­nate be­cause kids’ bod­ies are do­ing ter­ri­ble things to them at the same time as they hit this pe­riod of in­tense self-con­scious­ness.” High-pro­file teen psy­chol­o­gist Michael Carr-Gregg says sense of self is par­tic­u­larly frag­ile at this age. “It’s very dif­fi­cult if you hap­pen to be a 14-year-old girl be­cause you’re born into a gi­ant beauty con­test and if you don’t look like Kim Kar­dashian then you’re stuffed,” Carr-Gregg says. Carr-Gregg says one of the many chal­lenges is that phys­i­cal development out­strips psy­cho­log­i­cal development at this age. “A lot of 14-year-olds look 18,” he says. “(But) their brains aren’t all wired up yet. So ... they look so much older and more con­fi­dent than they ac­tu­ally are, when in fact that couldn’t be fur­ther from the truth.” ann says while young ado­les­cents of­ten have sim­i­lar ca­pac­i­ties of rea­son­ing as their par­ents in terms of logic and ar­gu­ment, their judg­ment doesn’t match. “That’s why teenagers are prone to mak­ing a num­ber of cog­ni­tive er­rors like they’re poor at judg­ing risk, they pay less at­ten­tion to longer-term neg­a­tive out­comes. It will be some time, as their brain con­tin­ues to de­velop and par­tic­u­larly the frontal part, but also in­tel­lec­tu­ally, be­fore they

When it comes to the chal­lenges of this in-be­tween age, Luke says peer pres­sure is ever-present.

“At 14, you reach a cross­roads where you have to make choices and there’s pres­sure to do the wrong thing,” he says.

“I know that, as we get older, peer pres­sure gets more in­tense and we’re all brac­ing our­selves for the fu­ture, that might in­volve drugs or al­co­hol.”

Both boys are aware of the po­ten­tial pit­falls of so­cial me­dia, which Josh says can some­times be­come a neg­a­tive ex­pe­ri­ence. have ex­actly the same think­ing ca­pac­ity as an adult.” Child development and par­ent­ing ex­pert Michael Grose says be­yond the enor­mous de­vel­op­men­tal changes, it is a tricky time be­cause 14-year-olds are no longer lit­tle kids, but don’t have the in­de­pen­dence or free­dom of later teens. He de­scribes that age as like be­ing in a hold­ing pat­tern. “There are not many op­por­tu­ni­ties for them to have power or con­trol over their own lives. I’ve got a the­ory that most kids at 14 think they’re three years older than what they are and most par­ents think they’re three years younger.” Cann says the hor­monal growth spurt at this stage has a huge im­pact on self-con­fi­dence and be­hav­iour. “Boys are go­ing to have 18 times the level of testos­terone cir­cu­lat­ing through their body, which is enor­mous, and girls have a sig­nif­i­cant in­crease in oe­stro­gen, but it is not as dra­matic — three or four times more.” He says kids at this age put a lot of pres­sure on them­selves to fit in, and look more than ever to their peers for re­as­sur­ance and sup­port. “You be­gin to form a sense of your­self, a sense of iden­tity. You also be­come very con­scious of so­cial judg­ment and com­par­i­son. You des­per­ately want to fit in, to be ac­cepted. All of that leaves you al­most 24/7 with this po­ten­tially crit­i­cal imag­i­nary au­di­ence and that’s quite a hard thing to live by.”

“Four­teen is the be­gin­ning of so­cial me­dia and I don’t have a smart phone yet but I’m aware that you should only post nice or sen­si­ble pho­tos of your­self be­cause any­body can screen­shot a silly photo and send it to peo­ple who can bully you,” Josh says.

Luke adds: “It’s an age where a per­son is de­fined not by what they do, but how many fol­low­ers they have (on so­cial me­dia).

“You’re try­ing to be a pic­ture per­fect teen with the best In­sta­gram feed and most Face­book likes.”

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