Young adolescence is a confusing time. During these early years of teenhood, kids aren't sure who they are, what they are, or how they (should?) feel about things. The work of these early years is beginning to feel comfortable with how they are changing and what they are to become.
Mirror, Mirror, on the Wall…
As your child enters his teen years, he will become very egocentric, and the mirrors in your house will suddenly become very important to him. In many ways, this constant “mirror check” expresses what he's going through inside. His body is changing and he feels different; if he keeps tabs on his outer appearance, maybe he'll find out who he is and how he's doing!
Girls who develop early and boys who develop late are more likely to be self-conscious about their bodies and may worry whether they are “normal.” While many teens will often suffer silently, if your child does bemoan his state of development within earshot, provide reassurance that he is, indeed, normal. You can probably produce a story or two about your own awkward teen years—being the tallest or the shortest in the class or whatever—and how it all turned out all right. (These types of “historical” stories also help because they provide your teen with helpful information—for example, that people in your family are “late bloomers.”)
Your young teen will also be very aware of a new “public”—her friends. More than anything, most teens want to be accepted and well-liked. This is hard because her friends are an erratic group. Many of their emotional responses are immature, and they give off mixed signals, making it difficult to interpret what they mean. The teens are heavy into “group think” at this age, and because most of them are unsettled about their identities, this makes for confusing days.
Here's a multiple choice quiz that will show you the communication difficulties of this age:
Maddie invites Susan to walk home from school with her. Susan responds with a very snippy, “Sorry, I have plans.”
Why did Susan reject Maddie's invitation?
- “I'm walking with Jo, and I'm afraid she'll make fun of me if I invite you along.”
- “I just had a fight with my mother, so even though I'm free this afternoon, I'm taking my bad mood out on you.”
- “I have to walk my little brother to the library, but I don't want anyone to know that I have to.”
- Any of the above. All could apply on any given afternoon.
If you answered D, you win a prize. (Unfortunately for you, it's a tube of anti-acne cream.)
As you can see, this is a confusing time. Susan is so concerned about maintaining her “image” that she's sure Jo will think less of her if she includes Maddie; and she's afraid her image will be totally destroyed if she's ever seen hanging out with her bratty little brother.
As for the fight with her mom, she'd hate to admit that it upset her—but it did, so she lashed out at the nearest possible victim.