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Understanding the Emotional Changes of an Adolescent

Understanding the Emotional Changes of an Adolescent

Children’s emotions change as they age. We’ve all heard about the terrible twos and teenage angst. But the emotional shifts in adolescents go deeper than that.

As a board-certified psychiatrist, Dr. Ifeanyi Olele of Genesis Psychiatric Solutions can help you navigate the emotional ups and downs your adolescent may be experiencing as they grow older and have to deal with changes in their life, body, and feelings.

Stages of adolescence

For young children, everything emotion is very near the surface. Children can see the world in black and white, as right or wrong and as good or bad. They have emotional reactions that happen suddenly but resolve just as suddenly. 

A toddler may go from laughing to crying and back to laughing very rapidly. Everything is focused on the here and now. Once your child hits double digits, things become more complicated. 

Early adolescence

Right before the teen years, your child's body starts to change as hormones begin to prepare them for maturity. This can cause feelings of anxiety or depression, and they may start to display more independence. 

Depending on your child's hormone production, you may start to see physical changes. While you may be excited to see your child growing up, this can be a frightening and unsettling time for them. Be there to support them and explain honestly what is happening to their bodies.

As your child moves into their teen years, they may start trying to assert their independence, and may also start experiencing more complications in relationships at and outside of school. 

Encourage sharing of feelings and emotions in the safe space of family. Be aware if your child seems off when they return from school and stay alert for signs of bullying. It can be hard to accept, but it might be your child who is the aggressor, so be aware of how they interact with family members and siblings. 

Middle adolescence  

Once your child reaches the age of 14 or 15, they may start having crushes and be thinking about sex. It's even more important to be open and honest about sexual matters, from what safe sex and consent are to the consequenses of having sex. 

Your child will likely start demanding more privacy at this stage of their life as they start to figure out who they are and claim their independence as much as they are able.

Late adolescence 

When your child turns 18, they are legally an adult, but there is no magic switch that makes all children equally mature. The frontal lobe doesn’t fully mature until the mid-20s, so be available as a guide for your child when they ask.

If you have built a strong relationship based on trust, unconditional support, love, and acceptance, they will still be able to turn to you when they have questions or need advice. You can remain their rock if you have proven yourself stable and devoted to their best interests while respecting their ability to act independently.  

If you have noticed emotional changes in your adolescent that trouble you, therapy can help. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation with Dr. Olele at either our McLean, Virginia, or Washington, DC, office. We also offer telepsychiatry appointments.

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