Middle adolescence

At ages fifteen to sixteen adolescents tend to:

• become more secure about their bodies and less self-conscious

• start to take risks and push boundaries

• develop a better capacity to compromise

• make their own decisions

• develop deeper, more lasting friendships

• become more sexually aware and start dating.

Although Matthew and Rachel have passed through this stage now and moved onto their next phase of adolescent development, I still wouldn't say that I was prepared for Sarah's entry into this field. Matthew with all his 'added extras' was and is rather different to his peers ofthe same age. Rachel is vastly different to Sarah. Middle adolescence for Rachel passed in a blur of boyfriends, intense friendships and parties.

Sarah is very different. Sarah is the Jackson stabilizer. Sarah is organized, methodical. She has a couple of friends who she is happy to meet up with but she wouldn't dream ofchatting on the phone and she certainly wouldn't entertain a stream of short-term boyfriends. Sarah does not like her personal space invaded. Woe betide anyone who touches her or gets too close!

This photo was taken recently - thanks Sarah!

In middle adolescence, teenagers start to develop their own ideals and values and question the values of their parents. I have always tried to teach all of my children to question everything and to look at society, themselves and others with an enquiring mind. Sarah has had strong views and ideals on many issues since she was a little girl, so for me, these middle years with her are slightly different. Many parents feel rejected as their child starts to experiment with his or her own self-image and ignore their attitudes and views, but this is something to be celebrated. (OK so seeing your pretty little girl go out with green spiky hair may not do wonders for you but.!)

Adolescents of any stage need their privacy as they cope with their changing bodies and fluctuating hormones. It is often hard for children to be part of a large family. Although there are many rewards, it is also difficult for children to have to share. In adolescence it is particularly hard and in our house and in other families with autistic children, that is even more so. Sarah likes to keep her own possessions safe and in a household such as this, that isn't always possible. For parents of adolescents and younger children or autistic children, then my advice would be to get them locks on their doors and locks for their cupboards sooner rather than later.

Middle adolescence is to me the hardest stage for teenagers to go through, as in most places there is nowhere in particular for them to socialize. Whilst seventeen-year-olds can get away with going to clubs and pubs, a fifteen-year-old is too young - yet is too old to be going to parks and the places that parents take their younger children. In my opinion this is why teenagers get such bad press. They have a need to assert their individuality (hence the search for their own self-image through piercings, hairstyles, clothes, etc.) and a need to find their independence and test boundaries (hence the rebelliousness), so hang around in packs on street corners and amusement arcades and are used as scapegoats for many social problems.

Having just turned sixteen, Sarah is now capable of babysitting as long as the little two are fast asleep and I am easily accessible. This ability to look after the younger ones gives me a newly found freedom and at last I am at the wonderful stage of being able to nip out to the shops or go out late at night without having to take reluctant little ones with me.

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