Your Daughter at 16: Milestones

Medically Reviewed by Renee A. Alli, MD on March 06, 2021
5 min read

They can drive a car, dare to step out of their social scene, and spin an awesome story -- sometimes in that order. Your daughter is 16, but they still need your help along the way.

This article explains the physical and emotional milestones they’ll reach this year -- and what hiccups they may encounter along the way.

Your baby girl isn’t a baby anymore. Their body is fully mature, or will be soon. They have the curves -- and the burdens -- that go with their womanly look.

It’s time for a fresh talk about their values as well as plans for their future, which looms closer than you think. Don’t shy away from talks about sex, drugs, and alcohol. They can hamper their plans for their future and affect their body, as well.

You might be surprised when your once very-social butterfly starts to break away from their clique, or at least show more personal flair and point of view. They still need their friends, but they’ll likely pick up new interests that go with their stronger sense of self.

This might lead them to seek a part-time job. As they assert their independence, you might see less of them at home. As their hormones level out, you’ll likely notice the two of you have fewer conflicts when your paths do cross.

Your sweet 16 has deeper emotions now. Their increasing need to care and share leads to closer bonds, both friendly and romantic.

They have a truer moral compass, or at least a more solid idea of what they feel is right or wrong. They back up their choices with a firmer stance.

Sixteen also can be tinged with sadness or depression. This can be troubling for you, too. It can lead to problems both in and out of school. If their gloom seems extreme or is ongoing, see a mental health expert.

Your daughter’s broader world demands more complex language skills. These are crucial, not only for school, but also in connecting with others. Here are some of the changes you can expect during their 16th year:

  • They tell and write involved, colorful stories. They are better able to explain, describe, sum up, and argue. Their academic load is more challenging.
  • Their sense of understanding ramps up. They keenly tunes in to others’ verbal and body language, and reads facial expressions.
  • They know their language needs change from school to other settings, and moves between them smoothly.

If they struggle with these key life skills, a speech/language pathologist can help them become confident and get on track.

Your 16 year old might be thriving in most areas of their life, but keep an eye out for some of the places that could trip them up.

Many teen girls are obsessed about their body size, type, and weight. If your daughter is truly overweight, they not only face health problems like diabetes and high blood pressure, but their social life and self-esteem could take a hit, too. Here are some ways to help them cope:

  • Remind them there’s no ideal weight number or body size for every person. Ask their doctor to help them set healthy goals based on their own body and age.
  • Make sure their vaccines are up to date; talk to their doctor about the HPV vaccine, which prevents against the virus that causes genital warts and raises the risk of developing cervical cancer. 
  • Steer them from shortcuts like fad diets and weight-loss products that block proper nutrition.
  • Encourage them to get an hour of exercise each day. Suggest doing something they like, like dancing or hiking. Go along when you can.

Your daughter is growing more secure in themselves, but iffy situations will still come up. Encourage them to stick with other kids who resist peer pressure, and to distance themselves from those who use temptation or risky conduct to prove their friendship.

Help them find ways to avoid or get out of situations that seem to be going awry. Locate other adults they can call on, including their parents! 

Ganging up on the weak is nothing new, but with all of the current technology, it’s more sneaky and brutal than ever before. With girls, it’s often verbal. Your daughter might not see it as much on school grounds or at hang-out spots as they do on social media and their smartphone. Electronics can magnify bullying in ways that are hard to control.

Teach them the best action is to tell a parent, school counselor, teacher, or administrator. If they're the victim of a bully, a mental health expert for teens can help them manage it, track its source, and lessen the emotional impact it has in their later life.

Social media can be both a gift and a curse. It’s a great way for your teen to meet new people and find others who share their interests. It gives them a forum to express themselves and their views. But the downfall is that they can’t be sure who’s watching. Try these things to help them stay safe online:

  • Help them control their personal information and bar access by people they don’t know or can’t place.
  • Show them that all posts and texts can be loudspeakers that broadcast to the world.
  • Make a rule that, like other friends they want to hang out with, they need to introduce you to people they plan to meet offline.

Motor vehicle crashes remain the most likely cause of accidental death for teens their age. Never stop drilling it in that they must follow all traffic and safety rules -- whether they're behind the wheel or riding along. Remind them to NEVER text while driving and to stay out of a car driven by someone who has had any amount of alcohol.

Insist they wear a helmet or other safety gear for cycling or ATV riding, and for other sports, too.

Your teen might act like they doesn’t need you, but they do, and they know it. Strengthen your bond with your 16 year old by doing the following:

  • Show interest in their daily life, both in school and out. Urge them to express themselves, volunteer, or join a cause they believe in.
  • Let them know their victories and efforts are a big deal to you, too.
  • Take their concerns and opinions seriously. Make suggestions, not judgements, to ensure lines of communication remain open. This also gives you a window into new patterns and behavior changes.
  • If they seem mopey or unusually sad, don’t shy away from asking about thoughts of hurting themselves or suicide. Mentioning it won’t make it more likely to happen. Get professional help right away if they need it.