13, 14 and 15 Year Olds
Understanding Your Child’s Development
Your child is now a teen! You’ll find that your teen will go through many changes, and quickly. They’ll grow taller, stronger and start to feel and think in more mature ways. On average, teens with testicles develop about two years later than teens with ovaries.
It’s important to try to be an askable adult. 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. It’s also important to make sure that your teen knows who else is a reliable source of information.
Below is a list of changes your child may have already gone through or will go through during their early teen years.
- Likely having body and hormone changes from going through puberty:
- continue to grow and gain weight
- skin is oilier and they may have acne on their face, upper back and/or chest
- start to sweat more
- have body odour, and may want to start using an antiperspirant or deodorant
- pubic hair thickens and darkens, and underarm hair thickens
- Seem to always be hungry and may eat a lot
- Need more sleep, so it’s okay to let them sleep in on weekends
Those with ovaries
- 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)
- Still gaining weight, and fat in the buttocks, legs and stomach may increase
- Hips begin to widen
- Menstruation starts (usually 2 to 2½ years after breasts begin to grow). They may have already started or may just be starting
- Menstrual periods and ovulation usually become regular—it’s possible to become pregnant. Some will continue to have irregular periods. If irregular periods continue beyond late puberty, they may need to consult a doctor. It’s important that your teen understands that they can still get pregnant even if they have no period. See Missed or Irregular Periods.
- White, mucous-like discharge from the vagina
Those with testicles
- Fast growth in height and weight (growth spurt often starts at about age 13)
- Shoulders become wider
- More body hair and facial hair
- Penis, scrotum and testicles get bigger
- Nocturnal emissions (wet dreams) may 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)
- Become interested in or develop 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
- May be attracted to or have a sexual experience with someone of the same sex. This does not necessarily mean it’s their sexual orientation, but it could be.
- A new desire or interest in sexual experiences
- 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 schoolwork
Listen carefully to your teen. Encourage them to express themselves and their feelings. Help them recognize their strengths, focus on 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
- Same-gender 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 one or two ‘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 teens with Differing Abilities.
What Your Child Needs Your Help to Learn
As kids 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, as well as:
- more detailed information about menstrual periods and nocturnal emissions (wet dreams), and that they’re normal and healthy
- how to question the influence the media has on how they view sexuality, their own body and other people’s bodies
- that it’s okay not to be sexually active
- how to use birth control, as well as how each method works
- about emergency contraception
- about pregnancy
- about STIs and safer sex practices
- about the connection between alcohol, drugs and decision-making, including being sexually active
- the difference between healthy, unhealthy and abusive relationships
- about consent including negotiation and refusal skills, as well as handling rejection in a way that is constructive and supports their mental health
- about relationship skills (e.g., how to end a relationship), as well as handling the pain of a break-up in an emotionally healthy way
To learn more, see Resources.
Click the link for more Tips for Talking about Sexual Health.
In Alberta, the health curriculum includes sexual health outcomes beginning in grade four. To learn more, see curriculum overview on our Teacher Portal.