The Tasks of Adolescence

In my past posts, we reviewed the varied ages and stages of developments that occur in teenagers years that bridge childhood to adulthood.  These developmental processes are complicated, difficult to navigate and present many struggles to teenagers, parents and other caregivers.

emotional scene
Decisions can be life-defining

This truly amazing time of life includes so many concurrent changes that it is extremely difficult to conceptualize.  For certain, these stages make it more than interesting to have relationships with teenagers!

A Teen’s “Job”

In conjunction with multiple physical, intellectual, social, moral and ethical dimensions are adolescent tasks. Most researchers agree on the typical tasks that occur during adolescence:

To find self, define self – this task is about determining new identities and defining a new sense of “who I am as a person.”

To figure out the new body –  adolescents have to deal with the many changes that have occurred in their bodies through the process of puberty.

To resolve the many push/pull feelings – this is reflective of the difficulties of having one foot in childhood and the other foot in adulthood.  They fluctuate from being childlike and acting dependent, within minutes, to wanting to be treated as a full adult and demanding respect for their right to make adult decisions that should not be questioned.

Questioning teen
Adolescents want answers

To find a place with peers – peers become more and more important. Teens must find their place with a peer group with which they have had the opportunity to connect.  It is a major part of shaping their identity.

To sort out values, manage moral and ethical issues – as teenagers go through stages of moral growth, they change the way they think about morals.  These new decisions cause all kinds of dilemmas within them not to mention conflict with their parents and caregivers.

To deal with his or her sexuality –  the raging hormonal changes are giving them new feelings and sensations that they need to cope with forcing them to make decisions about their sexuality.

To prepare for the future – since teenagers are facing the end of their childhood, the awareness of becoming a responsible adult and moving out of their parents’ house will soon be a reality.  Therein lies a huge pressure to find a career and establish life as an adult.

To re-negotiate their position in the family – since their only known role is to be a child in their family, they have to discover their new role in the family. This new role and new identity is sometimes difficult to navigate.

Teen with her baby
Defining a new family role

In Summary

There is probably no other time in life where this many tasks occur and change so radically.

  • It is important that we who have relationships with teenagers make sure we are supporting them through these tasks in our expectations, in our communication and in patience as we travel through this journey with them.

In my next post, I will explore some ways we can help teens through these important life adjustments.

Gerry Vassar, President and CEO, Lakeside Educational Network

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