understanding more of adolescence

Cognitive developmental changes in adolescence:

Idealistic thinking:

An ‘ideal’ is a person or thing conforming to a standard of perfection & excellence and taken as a model for imitation.

Adolescents think about ideal characteristics for themselves and others and compare themselves & others with these ideal standards. For example, they may think what an ideal parent is like and compare their parents with these ideal standards. A teenager in admiration of a film star idealizes her/his image, imagining them to have a perfect life, to be kind and thoughtful, and so on. They ignore the star's flaws. They can imagine an ideal world and think about alternative systems of political, religious, family, and moral organization. The disparities between the idealism of adolescents and the "real world" concerns of adults increase tension between many teenagers and their parents.

Abstract thinking:

Abstract means ‘existing in thought or as an idea but not having a physical or material existence’. We all communicate with abstraction at times. Examples- Love, honesty, bravery, knowledge, justice, trust, liberty, wisdom, freedom, hope so on….

The adolescent’s thinking becomes abstract. The adolescent can imagine situations and events. For example on being told that 191 is bigger than 119 and 119 is bigger than 109, a 15 year old can draw the conclusion that 191 is bigger than a 109. A child who has not entered adolescence, would have to see/write the numbers 191, 119 and 109 before s/he can come to a conclusion on the same.

Note to significant adults in the adolescent’s life:

When an adolescent argues at home or classroom, parents and teachers must understand that it is nothing to do with that child, but the cognitive changes s/he goes through during this period. Thereby avoid quarrels with them.

Try to acknowledge their view point & share your view point too instead of ridiculing them or sticking firm to your stand. Encourage health conversations on the same.

Parents & teachers should provide the adolescent, freedom of expression to come out with more creativity. Enroll them in voluntary service activities & help them develop hobbies.

Teachers can facilitate learning through practical modes like group discussion, debates, fun quiz, drama so on & make the class lively & interesting.


Swathi Priya. P
Counselling Psychologist





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