13, 14 and 15 Year Olds

Understanding Your Child’s Development

Your child is now a teen! At this stage of development your teen will have varied and rapid changes. They will grow taller and stronger and start to feel and think in more mature ways. On average, boys develop about 2 years later than girls. Aim to be an askable parent  who will be there when they need you. At this age your teen will still have many questions that they may not ask aloud.

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

Spend time together and use teachable moments to discuss topics on sexuality and sexual health with your teen.

For more information, click here

 

Development

Physical

  • Likely experiencing body and hormone changes from puberty:
    • Growth and weight gain continue.
    • Skin starts producing more oil and acne on their face, upper back and/or chest—this may become a problem.
    • Increased body odour—the need to wear antiperspirant/deodorant begins.
    • The amount that they sweat will increase.
  • Teens at this age are always hungry and have a great appetite.
  • Their need for sleep increases and they may sleep in on weekends.
 Females
  • Continue to grow taller, but at a slower pace than before – usually reach their adult height by age 16 or 17.
  • Breasts continue or begin to grow, and they may experience soreness under the nipples.
  • Pubic hair thickens and darkens, and underarm hair thickens.
  • Along with weight gain, their hips begin to widen and fat in the buttocks, legs and stomach increases.
  • Begin to menstruate — usually 2 to 2.5 years after breasts begin to grow.
  • Menstrual periods become regular and ovulation is established—pregnancy becomes possible.
  • White, mucous-like discharge from the vagina.
 Males
  • Rapid growth in height and weight—often have a growth spurt starting at about age 13.
  • Shoulders grow wider.
  • Pubic and underarm hair starts to grow and thicken.
  • Body hair will increase and facial hair will begin to grow.
  • Penis, scrotum and testes get bigger.
  • Nocturnal emissions (wet dreams) happen and sperm production begins or continues.
  • Capable of erections and ejaculation.
  • Voice starts to crack and becomes deeper.
  • Potential swelling under the nipples—this growth usually goes away by the end of puberty.

Sexual

  • Their sexual desires and fantasies increase.
  • Start to become interested in or develops romantic relationships.
  • Dating relationships are typically short-term, more social and experimental.
  • Greater interest in sexuality—experience sexual fantasies as a way of preparing for and understanding their sexual roles.
  • May have attraction or sexual experience with someone of the same sex—not necessarily an indication of sexual orientation.
  • A new desire for sexual experiences which are brought on by changes in hormones.
  • May masturbate.
By this stage your child should have and understand information about sexual intercourse and other ways to express sexuality, birth control, condom use, disease prevention and the responsibilities of child-bearing. 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.
  • Increased concern about what others think of them.
  • Tend to be greatly influenced by peer group—peer acceptance continues to be very important.
  • Relationship with parents becomes more of an adult exchange—this may include less affection toward parents. Sometimes they might seem rude or short-tempered.
  • Feel stress from more challenging school work.
Listen carefully to your child and encourage them to express themselves and their feelings. Help them to recognize their strengths, focus on them and develop them.

 

Cognitive (Learning & Thinking)

  • Strong need and desire to assert independence—may rebel against parents.
  • Begin to think in more complex and abstract terms.
  • Better able to express their feelings through talking.
  • May appear unhappy with expectations from parents, but are privately reassured that their parents care enough to put expectations on them.
  • Tend to experiment and try out different roles and search for self.
  • Start to define personal values using family, peer and societal values as a guide—develops a stronger sense of right and wrong.
  • Have a need for a supportive environment and for parents to be understanding.
Based on your family beliefs, values and your child’s ability, you will need to decide what you are comfortable letting your children decide for themselves. These decisions may include choice of clothing, hairstyles, friends and some activities that they do alone such as visiting the doctor. These are all opportunities for your child to express themselves as individuals, separate from you.

 

Social

  • Same-sex friendships become very important.
  • Increased interest and influence by their peer group —used as a source of comparison for behaviour, dress and overall taste.
  • Starting to show more concern about their body image, their appearance and their clothing.
  • Friendships tend to be group-focused, but may still have 1 or 2 ‘best friends’.
  • Self-esteem shifts between highs and lows.
  • Not very sociable with adults.

For information on children with Differing Abilities, click here.

What They Need to Know

As your child enters their teen years, they generally turn to their friends for answers and information. Being approachable is important so your teen knows they can come to you when they need you. At this age, your teen may still have many questions that they won’t ask aloud.

Here’s what teens in this stage of development should know:

For more information, visit our Resources page.

Click here to learn tips for discussing sexual health.

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

The Sexuality Wheel depicts just how broad the concept of sexuality really is.

 

FAQ Topic Flash Cards

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

 

The "Every Body" Gender Identity Learning Tool

Understand the difference and correlation between biological sex, gender identity, gender expression and sexual orientation.

 

Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI) Tool

See terms and definitions for some of the more commonly known sexually transmitted infections.

 

Birth Control Tool

With several options available to choose from, this tool helps clarify each type of birth control and how it works.

 

Understanding Consent Video

Consent is an important concept for children to learn about from an early age, as it can lead to better relationships with family, friends, peers and, eventually romantic partners.

 

Tips for Discussing Sexual Health

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

School Curriculum

The following is a summary of the human sexuality outcomes from Alberta Education’s Program of Studies. The bolded letters and numbers are the Alberta Education Codes for general and specific outcomes. Please visit their website for the complete Program of Studies.

Grade 7

W-7.3 Examine the human reproductive process, and recognize misunderstandings associated with sexual development.

W-7.12 Identify the effects of social influences on sexuality and gender roles and equity; e.g., media, culture.

W-7.13 Examine the influences on personal decision making for responsible sexual behaviour.

W-7.14 Examine abstinence and decisions to postpone sexual activity as healthy choices.

Grade 8

W-8.3 Recognize and accept that individuals experience different rates of physical, emotional, sexual and social development.

W-8.7 Determine the signs, methods and consequences of various types of abuse; e.g., neglect, physical, emotional, sexual abuse.

W-8.12 Identify and describe the responsibilities and consequences associated with involvement in a sexual relationship.

W-8.13 Describe symptoms, effects, treatments, prevention for common sexually transmitted diseases; i.e., chlamydia, HPV, herpes, gonorrhea, hepatitis B/C, HIV.

W-8.14 Identify and describe basic types of contraceptives; i.e., abstinence, condom, foam, birth control pills.

Grade 9

W-9.3 Apply coping strategies when experiencing different rates of physical, emotional, sexual and social development; e.g., positive self-talk.

W-9.7 Evaluate implications and consequences of sexual assault on a victim and those associated with that victim.

W-9.12 Determine “safer” sex practices; e.g., communicate with partner, maintain abstinence, limit partners, access/use condoms/contraceptives properly.

W-9.13 Identify and describe the responsibilities and resources associated with pregnancy and parenting.

W-9.14 Develop strategies that address factors to prevent or reduce sexual risk; e.g., abstain from drugs and alcohol, date in groups, use assertive behaviour.

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