Young Teens (12-14 years of age)
This is a time of many physical, mental, emotional, and social changes. Hormones change as puberty begins. Most boys grow facial and pubic hair and their voices deepen. Most girls grow pubic hair and breasts, and start their period. They might be worried about these changes and how they are looked at by others. This also will be a time when your teen might face peer pressure to use alcohol, tobacco products, and drugs, and to have sex. Other challenges can be eating disorders, depression, and family problems. At this age, teens make more of their own choices about friends, sports, studying, and school. They become more independent, with their own personality and interests, although parents are still very important.
Here is some information on how young teens develop:
Children in this age group might:
- Show more concern about body image, looks, and clothes.
- Focus on themselves; going back and forth between high expectations and lack of confidence.
- Experience more moodiness.
- Show more interest in and influence by peer group.
- Express less affection toward parents; sometimes might seem rude or short-tempered.
- Feel stress from more challenging school work.
- Develop eating problems.
- Feel a lot of sadness or depression, which can lead to poor grades at school, alcohol or drug use, unsafe sex, and other problems.
Thinking and Learning
Children in this age group might:
- Have more ability for complex thought.
- Be better able to express feelings through talking.
- Develop a stronger sense of right and wrong.
Positive Parenting Tips
Following are some things you, as a parent, can do to help your child during this time:
- Be honest and direct with your teen when talking about sensitive subjects such as drugs, drinking, smoking, and sex.
- Meet and get to know your teen’s friends.
- Show an interest in your teen’s school life.
- Help your teen make healthy choices while encouraging him to make his own decisions.
- Respect your teen’s opinions and take into account her thoughts and feelings. It is important that she knows you are listening to her.
- When there is a conflict, be clear about goals and expectations (like getting good grades, keeping things clean, and showing respect), but allow your teen input on how to reach those goals (like when and how to study or clean).
Child Safety First
You play an important role in keeping your child safe―no matter how old he or she is. Here are a few tips to help protect your child:
- Make sure your teen knows about the importance of wearing seatbelts. Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death among 12- to 14-year-olds.
- Encourage your teen to wear a helmet when riding a bike or a skateboard or using inline skates; riding on a motorcycle, snowmobile, or all-terrain vehicle; or playing contact sports. Injuries from sports and other activities are common.
- Talk with your teen about the dangers of drugs, drinking, smoking, and risky sexual activity. Ask him what he knows and thinks about these issues, and share your thoughts and feelings with him. Listen to what she says and answer her questions honestly and directly.
- Talk with your teen about the importance of having friends who are interested in positive activities. Encourage her to avoid peers who pressure her to make unhealthy choices.
- Know where your teen is and whether an adult is present. Make plans with him for when he will call you, where you can find him, and what time you expect him home.
- Set clear rules for your teen when she is home alone. Talk about such issues as having friends at the house, how to handle situations that can be dangerous (emergencies, fire, drugs, sex, etc.), and completing homework or household tasks.
- Encourage your teen to be physically active. She might join a team sport or take up an individual sport. Helping with household tasks such as mowing the lawn, walking the dog, or washing the car also will keep your teen active.
- Meal time is very important for families. Eating together helps teens make better choices about the foods they eat, promotes healthy weight, and gives your family members time to talk with each other.
- Limit screen time for your child to no more than 1 to 2 hours per day of quality programming, at home, school, or afterschool care.
For More Information
CDC’s Parent Information (Teens 12— 19)
This site has information to help you learn how to guide your teen to be safe and become a healthy and productive adult.
CDC's Childhood Overweight and Obesity Information.
Visit this site for facts and solutions for childhood overweight and obesity.
CDC's Healthy Weight Information.
Tips for parents – Ideas to help children maintain a healthy weight.
American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry
The American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry has many fact sheets for parents on child and adolescent health and development.
American Academy of Pediatrics — Developmental Stages
Visit this site for health topics organized by developmental stages.
BAM! Body and Mind
CDC’s BAM! Body and Mind is a website designed for kids 9 through13 years of age, to give them the information they need to make healthy lifestyle choices. The site focuses on topics that kids told us are important to them—such as stress and physical fitness—using kid-friendly lingo, games, quizzes, and other interactive features.
Bright Futures provides information on what to expect as your child grows, including parenting tips.
Choose My Plate
The U.S. Department of Agriculture provides information on health and nutrition.
AAP's Healthy Children website provides information on feeding, nutrition, and fitness for all developmental stages from infancy to young adulthood.
Just in Time Parenting (JITP)
Quality, research-based information to families at the time it can be most useful.
Five simple steps for kids towards growing up healthy.
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)
NHTSA has information on safety recalls and safety tips for children riding in motor vehicles, walking, biking, playing outside, waiting at school bus stops, and more.
National Institute of Mental Health
The National Institute of Mental Health has information on mental disorders affecting children and adolescents, including anxiety and depression.
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)
SAMHSA works to improve the quality and availability of substance abuse prevention, alcohol and drug addiction treatment, and mental health services.
Talk With Your Kids
Talk With Your Kids is a national initiative by Children Now and the Kaiser Family Foundation to encourage you to talk with your child early and often about tough issues like sex, HIV/AIDS, violence, and alcohol and drug abuse.
Visit this site for information on healthy eating and exercise for children and teenagers.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities
Division of Human Development and Disability
1600 Clifton Road
Atlanta, GA 30333
TTY: (888) 232-6348
- Contact CDC-INFO