Teens who mature physically, mentally and emotionally ahead of schedule often encounter problems that aren't age-appropriate. The problems are often associated with premature hormonal changes, advanced academic skills, superior problem-solving abilities and high levels of responsibility. Teenagers mature at different rates, so parents should encourage appropriate behavior without expecting their teen to grow up too fast. Downfalls of teens who mature too quickly can have serious consequences.
Teenagers who experienced puberty at a younger age have bodies that developed more rapidly than their mental and emotional capabilities. "Early puberty increases girls' odds of depression, drinking, drug use, eating disorders, behavioral problems and attempted suicide," says Sandra Steingraber, author of a 2007 report on early puberty for the Breast Cancer Fund, as reported in a "USA Today" article. The early onset of puberty doesn't mean teen boys or teen girls are ready to handle the responsibility that comes with biological maturity.
Mature teens are often expected to act like adults, yet they don't have the same skills or privileges as adults. As a result, some rebel and experiment with adult behaviors by skipping school, smoking, drinking, using drugs and engaging in sexual activity, says counselor Pam Lehman on the Education.com website. Parents should keep their teen accountable for age-appropriate decisions, without expecting her to act like a miniature adult. Even if your teen has good decision-making and problem-solving skills, she shouldn't be expected to be the primary caregiver for a sibling, take on excessive household responsibilities or be an emotional crutch for adult family members.
Teens who mature too early often have trouble fitting in with their peers. Some have superior academic skills that allowed them to skip a grade, and others simply prefer to develop friendships with adults. Mature teens often have trouble relating to immature teens their age because their peers make irrational decisions and get caught up in juvenile fantasies. Annette Sheely, counselor and education consultant, suggests that mature and gifted teens get involved in orchestra, band or drama where they can meet other teens who might also have higher maturity levels, according to an article from one of her seminars published on the Davidson Institute for Talent Development website. Mature teens need friends they can relate to so they don't feel obligated to play the role of big brother or big sister.
Mistaken for Adults
Mature teens often get pulled into adult circumstances by mistake. They might get offered alcohol at restaurants, be the subject of adult-initiated sexual advances, receive credit card solicitations, have trouble fitting into teen- or junior-size clothing and be expected to by-pass adolescence. Parents might unintentionally cater to less mature children and expect their mature teen to fend for himself when it comes to cooking, buying groceries, applying for college, getting a job, keeping up with his personal finances, maintaining a car or making tough decisions.