The early adolescent (12 to 16 years of age) is either a child or an adult may alternately respond and wish to be treated as either a child or an adult.
Adequate handling of this group offers a real challenge. One must feel one’s way and alter the approach accordingly.
Many boys and girls in their early teens are physically awkward and poorly coordinated because their growth during this period progresses in uneven stages.
The teenagers, consumes large amounts of food. Girls between 13 and 15 and boys between 16 and 19 years of age need more calories than at any other time during their life cycle.
Adolescent girls require 2000 to 2500 calories per day, and boys require 2500 to 3000 calories per day.
Teenagers often need double or even triple servings of food at meals and nourishing snacks between meals.
Good food habits should be stressed to ensure an adequate nutritional intake as well as ‘filling’ one. Teenagers often tend to maintain a hamburger- and-coke diet. They omit breakfast.
Young teenagers of both sexes are likely to be subject to disorders involving the skin. Acne vulgaris is a common condition at this age.
It is related to hormonal changes of puberty. Although it cannot be prevented, the symptoms can be minimized and complications prevented by attention to skin care and to diet.
This condition is most upsetting to most teenagers, and they usually are willing to follow suggestions for care.
Teenagers’ especially older ones are often confronted by ambivalence, and they may become confused and worried.
They feel a need to be the same as others in their group, and yet they are beginning to become individuals.
They may be the size of an adult and have the sexual drive of an adult but still be emotionally immature.
Society, however, may expect them to behave as adults. Teenagers are inherently idealistic, yet the realities of the world are constantly being revealed to them.
They have a great amount of energy and enthusiasm. These qualities are all too frequently rejected by adults, perhaps because the realization that their own years of life are passing makes them uncomfortable.
Teenagers need to talk about their problems and feelings. The teenage boy often likes to talk with an older adult, either a man or woman.
The teenage girls may confide in a young woman. Both boys and girls may find it easier to talk with someone other than a family member.
Priests, minister’s rabbis, club leaders, nurses and physicians, and friends of parents may be useful in this role.
The teenager should be allowed to express feelings freely and should be helped to explore them.
Sometimes professional help may be needed.