This age range is typically referred to as middle adolescence. The novelty and intense instability of early adolescence has faded, but teenagers are not yet as focused or mature as older adolescents can be. While the days of huge developmental milestones are ending, by no means are teens done developing. The structure of their development has been solidly established, but there are still many areas for improvement and elaboration. Certain hallmarks of adolescence will remain a part of your child’s life. Stereotypical issues such as impulsivity and mood swings usually continue into young adulthood. However, new skills acquired can help mitigate these issues. For example, greater emotional regulation enhances self-control, decreasing the frequency and severity of risk-taking behaviors and mood fluctuations. This allows teenagers to be less distracted by their emotions and focus more fully on their continuing development in other areas.

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Sleeping well and enough is important for anyone, but sleep is especially important during adolescence. While your teen’s sleeping schedule will likely have already shifted later, this is ordinarily incompatible with the early start of many schools. A lack of sleep at this age can significantly impact physical, emotional, and intellectual performance. It’s crucial for you to do what you can to ensure your teen gets adequate sleep. This may mean more monitoring of your child’s bedtime routine, such as turning off the Internet or confiscating their cell phone.
Although bodies tend to continue to grow into the late teens, most of the clumsiness associated with the onset of puberty usually disappears by middle adolescence. This makes it a prime time for teenagers to refine their physicality and achieve excellence in activities such as sports. Similarly, while language fluency is typically settled prior to the teen years, communication skills continue to be refined. Teenagers keep building their vocabulary. Their intellectual success in this field and others is only limited by motivation and environment. Challenging tasks that expose them to different kinds of communication and cognition are the best way for your teen’s mind to evolve. Overall, your teenager will begin to resemble a mini-adult more than a child. At this age, they start conceptualizing the future and considering what they want to accomplish in life. Better logic, reasoning, and problem-solving skills combined with an advanced capacity for abstract and hypothetical thought allows teens to make better decisions for themselves. They will enjoy the power and freedom of setting goals for themselves and will likely reject what is imposed by others, especially their parents and other authority figures. Middle adolescents are desperately seeking independence, and parents are often viewed as an embarrassing reminder that they’re not “real” adults yet.

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Try not to take it personally when your children start distancing themselves from you, especially in public. Give them space to experiment with new activities and develop their own identity, but don’t forget they’re not yet as mature as they think and they still need guidance from you. Take a step back and allow them to work as independently as possible as teens build much of their self-esteem through succeeding on their own terms at responsibilities such as school and work.
In contrast to the super-social-period of early adolescence, friendships of middle adolescents tend to decline in quantity but increase in quality. Being social is still hugely important, but a few good friends are more desirable than larger, less intimate social groups. Of course, peer pressure continues to be a problem and can be even more dangerous than before when coupled with potentially increased levels of self-sufficiency, such as income or access to a car. Therefore, it is important for parents to stay involved so as to encourage their children to achieve positive outcomes.

Development content was created by Jennifer Dunn, child development specialist.