Parenting & Child Development

11 Jan 2022

Parenting can be hard, can’t it? One moment you have this sweet little baby, and the next moment they are 13 going on 30, complete with eyerolls, sighs, and slamming the door. While this isn’t the experience for everyone, this is a common experience when children enter that all-too-familiar teenage phase of their lives. Why does this happen? It seems no matter what we do, they enter that phase despite our best efforts. 

Knowledge of child development is a good place to start when it comes to raising kids. While every child is unique with their own experiences and background, there are certain things that are similar across the board.  It can be helpful to know the basics of healthy development for your child, developmental milestones, and research based positive parenting techniques that can help. 

Developmental Milestones

Developmental milestones are often broken up into four categories: cognitive milestones, social/emotional milestones, language/communication milestones, and movement/physical milestones. Cognitive milestones include learning, thinking, and problem-solving skills. At 2 months, this can be looking at a toy for a few seconds, or watching you as you move around the room. At 6 months, this looks like reaching for a toy, or closing their mouth to show you they don’t want food anymore. At 15 months, this looks like trying to use items in the way they were intended. Examples of this include: using a toy cell phone the correct way, drinking out of a cup, or stacking objects. Social/emotional milestones at 2 months looks like calming down when being picked up, or smiling back at you when you smile at them. At 6 months, this includes laughing, and knowing familiar people they have been around. At 15 months, this looks like clapping when they are happy or excited, hugging a favorite doll or stuffed animal, or showing you the toy they are playing with. Language/communication milestones at 2 months looks like crying or reacting when they are around loud fireworks or other loud sounds, and making sounds other than crying, like cooing. At 6 months, this looks like making squealing noises, or sticking out their tongue and blowing it at you. At 15 months, this looks like trying to start saying a couple words besides “mama” or “dada.” Also, they will start looking at objects they are familiar with as you name them. Movement/physical milestones at 2 months includes holding their head up on their own when they are on their tummy (tummy time is important), and moving both their arms and legs. At 6 months, they will be able to roll from their tummy to their back, and use their hands to support themselves when they are in the sitting position. At 15 months, this includes taking a few steps on their own, and attempting to feed themselves using their fingers. 

Why is it important to know the milestones as your child grows? If you know their developmental milestones, you will be able to help your child learn and grow, and be able to identify when you need to seek additional support.1

Starting the Teen Years

Even when you do everything right in their early years, and they hit all their milestones, your child will still reach the teen years. It is important to know even if it’s obvious because some of the reactions (even though unpleasant) are a natural part of this milestone. When your child reaches 13, they hit the puberty stage, and along with it, many of the stressors that come along with social life and brain development. Puberty typically starts between ages 12-14, (although we have seen this starting earlier in recent years). It is common at this stage for your teen to make their own friends, and even branch out to new friend groups. Pressure to use drugs or alcohol can start around this time. On top of the already evolving changes their bodies and brains are going through, this can be a particularly stressful time. It is also not uncommon for eating disorders, depression, or sexual exploration to begin during this stage. It is important to go ahead and talk with your teen openly and honestly about these areas. Often, they will not want to discuss these topics because of embarrassment, but it is important to start the conversation. In doing this, try to stay away from shaming your teen, but instead encourage healthy decision making by giving your teen the facts and information they need. It is always good to be clear about the expectations you have for your teen, while outlining the clear and concise reasons behind the expectations.2

The Brain in Teens

The brain is a tricky thing. It is not fully developed until we reach the mid-20s to the late-20s. When raising a teen, this is an important bit of information to remember. Their brain is not fully developed, and this can impact many things. The last area of the brain to develop is the prefrontal cortex, which controls thinking, planning, and decision making. With the changes going on in the brain, it is important for teens to get enough sleep. This alone can be a battle, especially when trying to get your teen to turn off gaming devices or cell phones. It may be beneficial to set up expectations of usage time with your teens, setting limits to screen use, or removing the distraction.

It is also important to understand that stress impacts teens differently than it does adults. For a teen, this can lead to developing mental illnesses related to stress, including depression and anxiety. Teaching your teen how to manage stress is an important life skill that sometimes we as adults don’t always do well, but it is vital to their health and well-being during this stage of development.

It is not uncommon for mental health issues to start emerging during these years, so it is important to seek out help when needed. These issues can include the already mentioned anxiety and depression, as well as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, eating disorders, and self-harm. Even though many teens experience mental health related issues, it is important to know that they often become healthy, stable adults if they are able to receive the support they need.3

Below, you will find links to information about developmental milestones, information about the teenage brain, and child development. 

Overwhelmed?

Parenting is tough. It’s okay to not have all the answers, feel overwhelmed, and to need extra support. Sometimes finding the right balance is hard. You may wonder, “How can I teach my teen about stress management and self-care when I’m not practicing it myself?” I get it. Figuring out how to parent can be tricky, and it may look different for each child. You don’t have to figure it out alone. If you would like parenting support, stress management support, help figuring out the ever-evolving juggling act, or want to get support for your child, reach out. Having your needs and/or concerns spoken about, understood, and addressed can make a world of difference. You don’t have to do it alone.

1: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: chrome-extension://efaidnbmnnnibpcajpcglclefindmkaj/https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/actearly/pdf/LTSAE-Checklist_COMPLIANT_30MCorrection_508.pdf

2: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: chrome-extension://efaidnbmnnnibpcajpcglclefindmkaj/https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/childdevelopment/positiveparenting/pdfs/young-teen-12-14-w-npa.pdf

3: National Institute of Mental Health: https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/the-teen-brain-7-things-to-know#:~:text=Although%20the%20brain%20stops%20growing,mid%2Dto%2Dlate%2020s.

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