16, 17 and 18 Year Olds

Understanding Your Child’s Development

Your child is turning into a young adult. This is an exciting time for them. Their emotions can change quickly as teens learn to deal with school, friends and adult expectations.  Aim to be an askable parent  who will be there when your teen needs you. At this age they 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 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.




  • The body and hormone changes from puberty start or continue.
  • 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.
  • Hair growth in pubic area, on legs and under arms continues to get longer and thicker throughout puberty.
  • 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.
  • Usually reach their adult height by age 16 or 17.
  • Breasts may continue to grow, for others, they may be fully developed.
  • Along with weight gain, their hips begin to widen and fat in the buttocks, legs, and stomach increases.
  • Menstrual periods become regular and ovulation is established—pregnancy becomes possible.
  • White, mucous-like discharge from the vagina.
  • Growth in height and weight may continue for some, but may be slowing down for others.
  • Shoulders grow wider.
  • Pubic and underarm hair continues to grow and thicken.
  • Body and facial hair continues to grow.
  • Penis, scrotum and testes are close to, or are fully developed.
  • Capable of erections and ejaculation, sometimes while sleeping.
  • Voice continues to becomes deeper.
  • Potential swelling under the nipples—this growth usually goes away by the end of puberty.


  • A new desire for sexual experiences are brought on by changes in hormones.
  • Continued interest in romantic relationships.
  • 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.
  • As they get older, dating relationships have a deeper involvement, with genuine concern for their partner.
  • Increased physical desire for sexual play and intimacy.
  • May masturbate.


  • 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.
  • Conformity to peer group becomes less important.
  • Feel stress from more challenging school work.
  • Relationships with peers and adults are becoming more stable. Existing conflicts are likely based around issues of independence and self-identity.
  • Have a more realistic and established view of themselves and others.

Cognitive (Learning & Thinking)

  • Strong need and desire to assert independence— may rebel against parents.
  • May appear unhappy with expectations from parents, but are privately reassured that their parents care enough to put expectations on them.
  • Tend to experiment to try out different roles and search for self.
  • Start to define personal values, using family, peer and societal values as a guide.
  • Have an improved ability to think abstractly, to consider possible solutions to a problem and to predict cause-and-effect relationships.
  • Future plans become important and start to be put in place.
  • Have a need for a supportive environment and for parents to be understanding.
  • Are better able to provide reasoning for the choices they make.


  • Have a deeper capacity for caring and sharing and for developing more intimate relationships.
  • Spend less time with parents and more time with friends.
  • May feel a lot of sadness or depression, which can lead to poor grades at school, alcohol or drug use, unsafe sex and other problems.
  • Still enjoy being part of teams and groups but is more comfortable being their own person.

For information on children with Differing Abilities, click here.

What They Need to Know

As children make their way through the teen years, they will continue to 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, teens 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.

Career and Life Management (CALMGrades 10, 11 or 12)

P11 Examine the relationship between commitment and intimacy in all its levels.

  • Identify expectations and commitments in various relationships.
  • Examine a range of behaviours for handling sexual involvement.
  • Describe how personal values play a role in relationships.
  • Explain the role of trust and ways to establish trust in a relationship.
  • Develop strategies for dealing with jealousy.

P12 Examine aspects of healthy sexuality and responsible sexual behaviour.

  • Explain the ongoing responsibility for being sexually healthy.
  • Examine a range of behaviours and choices regarding sexual expression.
  • Describe sexually healthy actions and choices for one’s body, including abstinence.
  • Analyze strategies for choosing responsible and respectful sexual expression.
  • Describe the ways in which personal values influence choices.
  • Assess the consequences of being sexually active.

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