Like fledglings preparing to leave the nest, emerging adolescents are getting ready to test their wings. For parents, the most disconcerting aspect of these years may be the sense that their children are pulling away, becoming introverted and inaccessible, or shifting their allegiance to peers with whom they crave constant communication. Adolescence can seem like a years-long tunnel from which our children will eventually emerge, transformed into young adults; until then, it is essential that we provide them with informed guidance, supporting them on their journey.
With clothes shrinking and bodies expanding, emerging adolescents become self-conscious and sensitive. Rudolf Steiner describes this age as the advent of “a gentle sprinkling of pain that never goes away.” Emotional energy appears in full force, creating inner chaos, and our children need guidance—human, physical, and spiritual—to help them navigate through their environment. They are torn between wanting to be adults and wanting the comfort of their stuffed animals. As one Waldorf educator put it, “It’s as if they are shedding their skins.” A thirteen-year-old summed it up as, “Ma, the child you once knew is
gone!” Simultaneously independent and dependent, they need adults to be strong, firm, clear, calm, and patient.
Imagine the twelve-year old—arms and legs growing so quickly, sleeves and pant legs receding from wrists and ankles, bones increasing in
weight, and that strange new voice in the distance saying to you, the parent, “Do I have to do it now?” The once perfectly proportioned
eleven-year-old is now transforming before your eyes, becoming elongated and heavy-boned. This growth continues through ages thirteen and
fourteen, becoming more evident as each year progresses.
Emerging adolescents are entering the world of judgment, self-judgment, intellect, and cause and effect. Their self-awareness centers on their
thoughts and feelings, and their inner life needs appropriate nourishment. Often, the behavior they express conceals an opposite inner
reality. Although they may appear indifferent, they in fact depend on their teachers, parents, and other adults as they formulate their own
ideas and begin to think for themselves—and they need guidance in all aspects of this process. They meet the world through language, using it
to define all that they find in their environment: considering, observing, and judging.