13, 14 and 15 Year Olds

Understanding Your Child’s Development

Your child’s now a teen! You’ll find your teen will go through a lot of changes and quickly at this stage of development. They’ll grow taller, stronger and start to feel and think in more mature ways. On average, boys develop about 2 years later than girls.

It’s important to try to be an askable parent. This means you’ll be there when your teen needs you. Your teen will still have many questions that they may think about but may not ask about.

Spend time together and use teachable moments to talk about sexuality and sexual health with your teen.

To learn more, see Tips for Talking About Sexual Health.

Below is a list of changes your child may have already gone through or will go through during their early teen years.

Development

Physical

  • Likely having body and hormone changes from going through puberty:
    • continue to grow and gain weight
    • skin is more oily and they may have acne on their face, upper back and/or chest
    • start to have body odour, and may want to start using an antiperspirant or deodorant
    • start to sweat more
  • Seem to always be hungry and may eat a lot.
  • Need more sleep, so it’s okay to let them sleep in on weekends.
 Females
  • Still growing taller, but not as fast as before (usually reach their adult height by age 16 or 17).
  • Breasts continue or begin to grow (may feel some soreness under the nipples).
  • Pubic hair thickens and darkens, and underarm hair thickens.
  • Still gaining weight, and fat in the buttocks, legs and stomach may increase.
  • Hips begin to widen.
  • Begin to menstruate (usually 2 to 2½ years after breasts begin to grow).
  • Menstrual periods and ovulation become regular—it’s possible to become pregnant.
  • White, mucous-like discharge from the vagina.
 Males
  • Fast growth in height and weight (growth spurt often starts at about age 13).
  • Shoulders become wider.
  • Pubic hair thickens and darkens, and underarm hair thickens.
  • More body and facial hair.
  • Penis, scrotum and testes get bigger.
  • Nocturnal emissions (wet dreams) happen
  • Sperm production begins or continues.
  • Able to have erections and ejaculate.
  • Voice starts to crack and becomes deeper.
  • May have swelling under the nipples (which usually goes away by the end of puberty).

Sexual

  • Become interested in or develops romantic relationships. Dating relationships don’t usually last long, as they’re more social and experimental.
  • Feel more sexual desire and have more fantasies (may masturbate).
  • More interest in sexuality—sexual fantasies are a way to prepare for and understand their sexual roles.
  • May be attracted to or have a sexual experience with someone of the same sex. This does not mean that’s their sexual orientation.
  • A new desire for sexual experiences, brought on by hormone changes.

 

By this stage your teen should have and understand information about sexual intercourse and other ways to express sexuality. They should also know about birth control, how to use a condom, how to prevent STIs, safer sex practices and what the responsibilities becoming pregnant and being a parent are. Click here to learn more.

 

Emotional

  • May feel confused, have strong emotions and feel anxious about their changing body.
  • May become easily upset, be more sensitive or lose their temper more than usual.
  • More concerned about what others think of them.
  • Tend to be quite influenced by others their age (peer group)—being accepted is important to them.
  • Relationship with parents becomes more adult-like—this may include not showing as much affection toward parents. Sometimes they might seem rude or short-tempered.
  • Feel stress from more challenging school work.

Listen carefully to your teen. Encourage them to express themselves and their feelings. Help them to recognize their strengths, to focus on them and develop them.

 

Learning & Thinking (Cognitive)

  • Strong need and desire to show some independence—may rebel against parents.
  • Begin to think in more complex and abstract terms.
  • Better able to express their feelings through talking.
  • May not seem happy with what their parents expect from them, but are privately reassured that their parents care enough to put expectations on them.
  • Tend to experiment and try out different roles as they try to figure out who they are.
  • Start to define personal values using family, peer and society’s values as a guide. They develop a stronger sense of right and wrong.
  • Need for a supportive environment and for their parents to be understanding.
Based on your family beliefs and values you’ll need to decide what you’re comfortable letting your teen decide for themselves. These decisions may include choosing their own clothes, hairstyles, friends and some activities that they do alone, such as visiting the doctor. These are all ways teens can express themselves as individuals, separate from their parents.

 

Social

  • Same-sex friendships become very important.
  • More interest and influence by kids their age. Use them to compare their own behaviour, dress and overall taste.
  • Showing more concern about their body image, how they look and the clothes they wear.
  • Friendships tend to be group-focused, but may still have 1 or 2 ‘best friends’.
  • What they think about themselves (self-esteem) shifts between highs and lows.
  • May not be very sociable with adults.

Click the link to learn more about children with Differing Abilities.

What Your Child Needs Your Help to Learn

As children enter their teen years, they generally look to their friends for answers and information. It’s important your teen knows they can come to you. At this age, your teen may still have many questions that they won’t ask about.

At this stage of development, teens should know all of the information from birth to 12 years old, plus know:

To learn more see, Resources.

Click the link for more Tips for Talking about Sexual Health.

School Curriculum

In Alberta, the health curriculum includes sexual health outcomes beginning in grade four. To learn more, see curriculum overview on our Teacher Portal.

Helpful Tools

 

Parent Guide (13-18 year olds)

This resource will help you prepare for the ongoing conversations you’ll have with your teen about sexual health. Whether you’ve had conversations in the past or not, it’s never too late to start!

 

Sexuality Wheel

Explore the dimensions of human sexuality.

 

FAQ Topic Flash Cards

See sample questions and answers to help you start the conversation about sexual health with your child.

 

The "Every Body"

Learn about the differences between biological sex, gender identity, gender expression and sexual orientation.

 

Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI) Tool

Learn about some common sexually transmitted infections.

 

Birth Control Tool

Explore birth control options, how they work and how well they protect against pregnancy and STIs.

 

Understanding Consent Video

For ages 12 and up.

 

Tips for Discussing Sexual Health

Here are some tips for starting or having conversations about sexual health, at any age.

 

 

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