4 Things Your Early Teen Needs

Early teens, which is what I like to call teens that are ages 13-15, are going through such a variety of developmental changes that parents can really help, guide, and encourage.  Here are four incredible ways you can help your early teen:

Tell biographies and keep offering up great adult role models.   In the past, the years of 13 o 15 was not such a fragile time because the child was so deeply embedded in the family and community with markers of passage into being a young adult.  We have now lost many of the markers of passage into the teenaged years and we have at the same time lost so much of the close-knit community and extended generations we used to have so a child knew how to integrate into being a young adult.  So, how we meet the child’s need for integration now can come in the form of biography.  Young teens will identify with hearing that they are not the only ones who are struggling; they will carry pictures of others  who struggled mightily and were brave and who succeeded and offered something to the world.

Help them LET GO.  Thirteen to fifteen year olds often rely on half-facts, undigested information and knee-jerk reactions.  They often have strong opinions for or against something but even if their idea or opinion is obviously faulty, they cannot seem to let go of it!  Help them know it is okay to let go their judgment or opinion and make space for a new idea or opinion.

Help them harmonize.  There are a lot of things that feel “off” to early teens in their physical bodies and emotional states in these years.  The task is to harmonize things, and the “self” that should help a child control his or her will, such as being able not to eat too much or  not play video games compulsively is just not able to do so yet.  Offer up healthy boundaries and new challenges that lead the child into being part of the world, not being alienated and separate.



Offer an expanded world. Sometimes early teens get very narrow views of what they will or won’t do, what they do or don’t like, how they want to spend their time.  It is up to us, the parents, to stimulate a broader and bigger picture than what the teen is seeing sometimes. We should help our teen take an interest in the world.  For those of you that are into Waldorf Education, Steiner spoke quite a bit about this.

How do you help in balance with your early teen?



9 thoughts on “4 Things Your Early Teen Needs

    • I think the biographies naturally tie into the time periods of history often studied in the Waldorf curriculum – Roman History for example, could see Julius Caesar and Augustus Caesar. Medieval History could be someone like Charlemagne and St. Francis. There are so many from each different time period and country. Great heroes of the day. Eighth grade, this year, for example, we did a lot of wonderful modern day heroes. We studied everyone from Captain Cook to Amelia Earhart to FDR to Churchill to Jimmy Carter to very modern peacemakers from Africa. So many wonderful people to choose from.

    • Not specifically. Usually I would just go to the library and we did most of our biographies as part of homeschooling and what historical period we were studying at the time. I tried to find biographies for children that were “not grey” at this point. By that I mean, now it is easy to find biographies that pick people apart and diminish the good things they did…so trying to stick to the points of light as it were or people who rallied against things that were wrong, like peacemakers.

    • We recently read Russell Freedman’s biography of Confucius which painted a very impressive picture of him. My son commented that Confucius reminded him of Bernie Sanders, who my son is currently inspired by. Later, I came across a library book about Ancient China written by a Chinese author which was highly critical of Confucius and basically implied he was a misogynist. So then I am left wondering if I have misrepresented Confucius by only showing the good and, more to the point, is this someone I want to present to my son as being a positive role model? These people are human beings and more complex than just “good” or “bad”. Also, one person’s hero is another person’s villain. I know I have a tendency to overthink everything, so I am starting to realise how complex teaching history is going to be for me!

    • Hi there,
      I really believe that children until the 15/16 change can really only absorb so much that is “gray”. I think the time for gray in individual biographies can be a little in 8th and 9th grade and then certainly all through high school but until then I try to present things in positive light. I think one thing we are doing in general to this generation is presenting everything as gray which leaves the child with no wonderment of the wonderful things people can achieve in life, no sense of heroes. We do deal with grey throughout the curriculum in polarities – think even back to second grade with tricksters and saints, in sixth grade with black and white drawing and finding those shades of gray, but I really think for these individual biographies trying to picture things more black and white, which is the consciousness the child is in until later, is the right thing to do. It gives the child hope and we want to inspire children to not give up on humanity before they even set off to live in humanity, if that makes sense. All the gray really is for the adult to carry, and many of us don’t get the gray well until we are in our 30s or so, and for the young adult to begin to grapple with.

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