Child development stages aren’t just relevant for your child during their early years.
Becoming a teenager is one of the biggest changes your child will go through, so it’s important to prepare yourselves (and them!) for what’s to come.
As with all development stage guides, children’s emotional and physical growth rates vary greatly, so take these ages as a rough estimate, not an exact science. That said, here are the most common milestones you can expect to go through with your teenagers…
Child development stages: Ages 13-16
The average teenager has a lot on their plate, so try to understand this and prepare yourself for the hormonal moodiness and angry outbursts that will almost certainly be directed at you. First relationships and the pressure of exams can all add to the stress your teen will be experiencing. They still need your help and guidance, just not in the way they used to.
‘By now the separation from parents is in full swing,’ says Suzie Hayman, author of Teach Yourself Parenting Teenagers. ‘Your teenager is more likely to listen to you if you listen to them, so try to talk things through and negotiate solutions that suit you both.’
At the age of 13, some girls already look like women, while lots of boys still look like children. Both boys and girls will be very conscious of their bodies and concerned about their appearances. Most boys won’t need to shave, but might want to anyway. Girls will probably want to start shaving their legs and underarms.
It’s common for teenagers to suffer from acne, which is caused by changing hormone levels. Over-the-counter treatments may help, but if not it’s best to see your GP, who may prescribe antibiotics – or the contraceptive pill for girls – as this often controls the problem.
Most teenagers will now lose interest in children’s stories and prefer to read books aimed at older teenagers or adults.
Some parents worry that their teenagers spend too much time listening to music or talking to their friends through text messages or MSN, but research indicates that this can actually benefit your child’s language skills.
Many girls begin to keep a diary at this age. This should be encouraged, as it’s a great way for them to express their thoughts and feelings.
Teenagers are painfully self-conscious and will worry a great deal about how they look, the clothes they wear and what other people think of them. They can be particularly sensitive to criticism, so never comment on their behaviour in front of others, as they are likely to find this humiliating. Mood swings are very common at this time, so you will avoid lots of arguments if you can manage to stay calm and give your teen the space to spend some time alone.
Between the ages of 14 and 16, teenagers will be busy preparing for their GCSEs, and many find the pressure overwhelming. By now you may struggle to understand some of your teenager’s homework – but you should still take an interest and offer your support. Your teen will need to set aside regular time for homework and revision, so set some guidelines to make sure that they get their work done. However it’s important for them to have fun too, so keep an eye on them to make sure that they are not working too hard.
Until the age of 13 or 14, most children have same-sex friendships. But from now on your teen is likely to be part of a large mixed group of friends. If they are dating they may spend time with other couples, but this may change if they begin a more serious relationship.
If this happens, your teen may start to spend more time with their new boyfriend or girlfriend than with their friends. You may need to encourage them to keep up their old friendships, and will almost certainly need to comfort them when relationships break up or a friend lets them down.
Many parents struggle with their teenager’s first relationship, often because they are jealous. Try to deal with your own feelings of rejection and jealousy, and accept that this person must have something going for them if your teenager likes them so much.
How to help
Don’t assume that your teenager is sexually active – but accept the fact that there’s every chance that they are. Make sure that they understand about safe sex and contraception and tell them that they can come to your with any questions or concerns. If they do, try your best to be honest, supportive and non-judgemental and avoid lecturing them about their behaviour.