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A young adolescent girl is comforting her friend, who appears upset.

Changes in Adolescence

Emotional Changes

Hormonal changes affect the mood, attitude and self-concept of a young adolescent student. Adolescents may display impulsiveness, frustration and anxiety as they experience a rise in hormones.

During the Middle Years, adolescents may experience:

  • mood swings
  • uncertainty about their identity and place in the community (For example, new immigrants, minority groups and children from strong cultural backgrounds, or with gender-identity questions, may not be sure how their identity fits in with their lives at school and in the community.)
  • a strong need to belong and to feel loved, understood and respected
  • wavering self-confidence (Telling young adolescents what they are doing well encourages and supports them, and boosts their self-esteem. Too much criticism can discourage them and lead to low self-esteem.)
  • embarrassment about their changing bodies, their feelings and their families
  • confusion when comparing their own bodies, friends, families and lives with those they see represented in the media (ex: TV, magazines, websites)
  • an interest in sex
  • romantic feelings for others
  • a need to make personal decisions or to assert their independence
  • anxiety about new experiences and responsibilities (ex: puberty, hygiene)
  • pressure to behave like their peers or classmates
  • fear of being rejected by their peers

It is helpful to provide adolescents with a safe place and time to think about their feelings and reactions.

“Sometimes it’s really hard not to take the moods personally. I can go from best friend to enemy #1 in a matter of minutes and then back again just as quickly. I have to remember it’s not about me, or because of me . . . it’s just the hormones.”~ Parent of Middle Years student
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“I pick a time when she’s in a good and stable mood to discuss previous emotional outbreaks. Trying to resolve it while she’s in a mood swing is completely useless and usually just makes it worse.”~ Parent of Middle Years student
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“As a teacher you see  how the emotional highs and lows affect Middle Years students in their friendships and learning, and you try and help the students understand that these emotions are all part of growing up. It’s rewarding to help students learn to take control of their emotions so the emotions don’t take control of them.”~ Middle Years teacher
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“Sometimes I get a little moody and maybe talk back or don’t do what I am told . . . [but] I try my best to be a good daughter.”~ Middle Years student
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