We often reflect on our childhood with fondness and even jealousy. How simple life was—crayons and coloring books, playing make believe, intense games of tag with neighborhood kids. Our troubles consisted of skinned knees, unwillingly eating our vegetables and facing the school bully.
The transition from childhood to adolescence shoves us off the path of simplicity into thorns of the unfamiliar, evoking fear and anger as we experience changes physically, emotionally, cognitively and socially. During this time, it’s easier to get tangled in the weeds of addiction as a form of escape from our new reality, especially without support from parents and peers.
We can better cope with this transition once we and those around us understand exactly what we’re going through.
Expect physical changes
Our bodies go through puberty typically between the ages of 10 and 15, a time in which we see and feel major physical developments from childhood to adolescence. Growth spurts and development of facial hair and reproductive organs are at their peak. With everyone developing at different rates, however, bullying is a problem many face.
Today’s media doesn’t help matters for children transitioning into adolescence, either. Magazines and movies pressure females to wear clothing a size too small, makeup to maintain an appearance of perfection and hairstyles costing hundreds of dollars. Many young women believe less of themselves if they can’t live up to the media’s expectations, putting them at high risk for developing depression, eating disorders, and more.
Social media is playing a role in portraying unrealistic expectations in young men just as much as young women, convincing them that, in order to be accepted, they must look a certain way, spend hours in the gym and keep a handle on their emotions, no matter what challenges they are facing.
These societal expectations put a lot of unfair pressure on individuals in the stages between childhood and adolescence, which increases the chances of decreased mental health and stability.
Recognize cognitive changes
Our brains also mature during this transition.
We begin to think on adult levels, but we still make poor decisions because we still aren’t focusing on our long term future. We often make decisions that satisfy our current personal needs above the needs of others.
As hormones run rampant, our desires for personal connections and satisfaction take over, leading to unhealthy choices that negatively affect our futures. Some seek adrenaline rushes from taking extreme risks and breaking rules. Others attempt to escape the confusion and frustration of this transition by relying on promiscuity or substance abuse. But all of these outlets can have harmful long term effects.
Accept emotional changes
You’ll find yourself thinking more about your identity as you progress into adolescence. As we exit the childhood stage, we enter a world filled with decisions, questioning and testing our morals, social status and more. It’s normal to want to be a part of the “in crowd.” Identify and celebrate the differences and uniqueness that is you.
Our choices reflect what we’ll become, despite what our parents might have planned out for us. It’s difficult for them to watch us become people they hadn’t anticipated. We don’t all want to become doctors, lawyers or CEOs of multi-million dollar companies. We may feel our parents or guardians set unrealistic expectations and it’s highly common to feel misunderstood.
Physical changes bring on new emotions of our self-image. Maybe you’re the shortest boy in class, fitting perfectly in your locker. Or you’re a young girl struggling with weight issues, desperate to remain invisible, but your body is maturing more quickly and drawing unwanted attention. No matter your situation, know you’re not alone. All of your peers will go through changes that make them feel vulnerable whether or not they talk about it openly.
Understand social changes
Along with the countless other changes we undergo during our transition from childhood to adolescence, we find ourselves more drawn to our peers than ever before. Whatever connections we’ve built with our parents or guardians get tested because they, too, have difficulty coping with our transition.
We tend to lean towards those we know understand, those who are also going through the transition. We develop personal relationships with those who share our interests, including young people of the opposite gender.
When faced with this daunting transition on top of other stressors some may be experiencing at home—sibling rivalry, domestic violence, etc.—some may resort to unhealthy habits, including promiscuity, substance abuse and/or self-harm in efforts to numb symptoms of depression or feelings of isolation.
If you or someone you know is struggling with these addictions throughout the transition from childhood into adolescence, we at Rehab After Work offer outpatient services specifically designed to help overcome a variety of emotional struggles. Contact us at (610) 644-6464 for more information.