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1 The FaiTh Challenges oF early adolesCenCeCatechesis for pre-adolescents and adolescents should take into account their physical, social, and psychological conditions.National Directory for Catechesis #48D, page 199The junior high years of schooling (grades 7-8) and the early adolescent years of human development focus on young people ages 12-14. Early adolescents are a gift and a challenge to their parents, catechists, teachers, and youth ministers.These early teens experience major developmental changes in their thinking ability and in their physical bodies (see also Chapter 5). Teens’ capacity to reciprocate friendship and to belong to groups outside the family makes them both socially energetic and vulnerable.Adolescence is a key time to keep young people involved in the Church. Many parishes recognize that adolescents have different developmentaland catechetical needs than younger children and develop youth ministry programs for them. Teachers of junior-high students in schools usually have special training and certification requirements. Catechists face the challenge not to believe all the media hype that estranges adults from teens. Teens are both very different from and very like we adults were in those years. They are both reachable and teachable.Religious education programs often collapse precisely during the teens’ developmentaltransition into adult understanding of our faith tradition. Outgrowing one’s childhood faith need not mean outgrowing one’s faith. Visions, by encouraging young people to engage in dialogue and conversation, helps them bridge these transitions.Emotional and Social dEvElopmEntYoung teens have very high stress levels because so much is happening to them for the first time— voices and bodies changing, minds growing, becoming sensitive to others’ expectations. Even buoyant, confident kids can bottom out with little forewarning when something troubles them. Teens have no experience to draw on for handling the newness of their bodies and feelings.Junior high students’ first attempts at more independence can be frustrating; failure can make them feel foolish. They worry about competence— at sports, musical instruments, relationships, and school work. Teachers can help young people overcome their self-consciousness by varying curriculum and teaching methods. This not only provides diversity but also ensures that each teen can be successful at something.Young people seek their own friends and groups but feel very vulnerable in these attempts. Theneed for peer acceptance can sometimes resultin behavior that challenges what families will accept. Positive interaction with adults, through relationships with teachers, mentors, or youth- group leaders, can help young people work through their changing relationships with their parents.Leadership training and opportunities to lead in groups can strengthen young teens’ confidence to take more ownership of class projects or youth group activities. Every teen needs to develop skill

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