Positive Parenting Tips: Young Teens (12–14 years old)

Key points

  • As a parent you give your children a good start in life—you nurture, protect, and guide them.
  • Learn about developmental milestones, including emotional and social changes for children who are 12 to 14 years old.
  • Help your child with positive parenting tips, which include topics such as child safety and healthy bodies.
Young teen boy smiling

Developmental milestones

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.

Emotional/social changes

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 them to make their own decisions.
  • Respect your teen's opinions and take into account their thoughts and feelings. It is important that they know you are listening to them.
  • 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 they are. 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 them what they know and think about these issues, and share your thoughts and feelings with them. Listen to what they say and answer their questions honestly and directly.
  • Talk with your teen about the importance of having friends who are interested in positive activities. Encourage them to avoid peers who pressure them to make unhealthy choices.
  • Know where your teen is and whether an adult is present. Make plans with them for when they will call you, where you can find them, and what time you expect them home.
  • Set clear rules for your teen when they are home alone. Talk about such issues as having friends at the house, handling situations that can be dangerous (emergencies, fire, drugs, sex, etc.), and completing homework or household tasks.

Healthy bodies

  • Encourage your teen to be physically active. They 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.
  • Keep television sets out of your teen's bedroom. Set limits for screen time, including cell phones, computers, video games, and other devices, and develop a family media plan.
  • Make sure your child gets the recommended amount of sleep each night: For teenagers 13–18 years of age, 8–10 hours per 24 hours (including naps).

For more information

CDC's Adolescent and School Mental Health can help you learn how connection is key to good adolescent mental health.

CDC's Parent Information (Teens 12–19) has information to help you learn how to guide your teen to be safe and become a healthy and productive adult.

CDC's Healthy Weight Information has tips and ideas for parents to help children maintain a healthy weight.

CDC's Youth Physical Activity Guidelines has information on how to help children be active and play.

CDC's BAM! Body and Mind is a website designed for kids 9 through 13 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.

CDC's Information on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Youth Health has information about the physical and mental health of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth.

American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry Guide has many fact sheets for parents on child and adolescent health and development.

My Plate by The U.S. Department of Agriculture provides information on health and nutrition for children over 5 years of age.

AAP's Healthy Children website provides information on feeding, nutrition, and fitness for all developmental stages from infancy to young adulthood. Visit this website to learn more about emotional problems, learning disabilities and other health and development concerns.

Just in Time Parenting's site provides quality, research-based information to families at the time it can be most useful.

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (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 has information on mental disorders affecting children and adolescents, including anxiety and depression.

StopBullying.gov provides information from various government agencies on how children, parents, educators and others in the community can prevent or stop bullying.

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) works to improve the quality and availability of substance abuse prevention, alcohol and drug addiction treatment, and mental health services.

Teens Health site for information on healthy eating for children and teenagers, safety tips for your child when you can't be there, and other important health and safety topics.