Your Daughter at 13: Milestones

As your daughter enters her teen years, she’s got a lot of changes in store, both physical and emotional. Here’s a look at where your 13-year-old is in the growing-up process and what you can do to help.

Language

If your daughter would rather text than talk, don’t be surprised. Girls hitting the teen years may communicate less -- with you at least. But she will let you know her opinion.

At 13, girls are more aware about what they should say in certain situations. They’re also starting to zero in on body language and tone of voice, not just what’s being said.

How you can help:

  • Look for good times to talk. Chat while you’re in the car or cooking together in the kitchen.
  • Find new ways to draw her out. Instead of asking, “How was your day?” share something about yours. You can also challenge her to tell you anything bad, funny or weird that’s just happened to her.
  • Remember to listen. When your daughter’s ready to open up, be prepared to stop what you’re doing and give her your full attention.

Physical Development

At 13, many girls are going through puberty. A huge change in hormones brings about fuller breasts, wider hips and pubic hair. Your daughter’s skin and hair will start making more oil and her height, weight and body fat will increase. Most girls also start their period.

Because of all these body changes, your daughter may start to feel more self-conscious about what she looks like or the clothes she wears.

How you can help:

  • Urge your daughter to be active. She doesn’t have to play a team sport. Walking the dog, helping out in the yard, or playing laser tag with friends counts too.
  • Eat meals as a family. This will help her make healthy choices about the foods she eats.
  • Limit screen time. Girls this age shouldn’t have more than 2 hours of total screen time each day.
  • Be a good role model. If you often say that you’re fat or complain about your looks, your daughter may start to do the same. Teach her that it’s more important to be strong and fit than to be a certain size.

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Social

Fitting in has never been as big a deal to your daughter as it is now. Because of that, she’s likely to spend more time with friends.

Although girls this age are building a strong sense of right and wrong, peer pressure can still be a problem. It’s common for 13-year-olds to want to test limits by trying out risky behaviors. That’s why, as grown up as your daughter wants to be, she still needs lots of support and guidance.

How you can help:

  • Offer support. If your daughter knows she can have an open, honest talk with you, she’s more likely to come to you with problems.
  • Stay on top of social media. Make sure you know what sites your daughter uses and that you approve of them.
  • Make sure she knows the risks of drug use. A need to feel grown up or fit in can tempt girls to drink, smoke or try drugs. Talk to your daughter about the dangers of doing so.
  • Talk about sex. Your daughter needs to have the right information so she can make good choices. Besides sharing your own values about sex, make sure to talk about safe sex and sexual assault.

Emotional

Although she’s getting more independent, your daughter likely has mixed feelings about “breaking away” from you. Don’t be surprised if she wants to spend time with you one minute, then is rude or angry the next.

Girls this age also often careen between feeling good about themselves and having self-doubt. The good news is that by this age, most girls do a good job of putting their feelings into words.

How you can help:

  • Keep her included and involved. Your daughter should be part of family decisions, activities, and events. Constant support from you means a lot to her, even though she may not show it.
  • Reassure her. Remind your daughter that the changes she’s having are a normal part of growing up. She shouldn’t feel ashamed or embarrassed.
  • Help her earn her own money. At 13, your daughter can babysit or walk dogs for a neighbor. Working for her own cash will give her some of the freedom she craves and teach her to be more responsible.

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Academic

Girls this age absorb a great deal of knowledge through reading, writing, and watching others. Many also start to show an intense interest towards a certain topic.

Your daughter is also becoming a deeper thinker, able to understand concepts, not just concrete things. She’s also able to think through problems and see things from other people’s points of view.

How you can help:

  • Stay informed. Attend teacher conferences and open houses at her school so you know the work she’s doing.
  • Have a homework schedule. Set a start time every night. Make sure she has a quiet, well-lit place in your home to get her work done. If she needs help, let her know she can come to you.
  • Help keep track of her time. Staying organized is a huge skill your daughter likely still needs to master. Help her find ways to stay on top of homework and class projects.
  • Know the signs of a learning disability. These include not wanting to write or read aloud, trouble doing word problems, and being slow to recall facts. If you see these over a long period of time, talk to your daughter’s teacher.
WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on March 21, 2019

Sources

SOURCES:
 

CDC: “Child Development: Young Teens (12-14 years of age.)”

Sutter Health Palo Alto Medical Foundation: “Parents & Teachers: Teen Growth & Development, Years 11 to 14.”

NorthShore University HealthSystem: “Teenager (13-18 years).”

U.S. Department of Education: “Changes -- Helping Your Child Through Early Adolescence.”

The Center for Parenting Education: “Child Development By Age.”

KidsHealth from Nemours: “10 Ways to Help Your Child Succeed in Middle School.”

LD Online: “Common Signs of Learning Disabilities,” “Eating Disorders.”

OneToughJob.org/Children’s Trust: “Growth & Development: 12-15 Years.”

Cleveland Clinic: “Social Development During the Teen Years.”

Children’s Health: “13-14 Years.”

Understood.org: “Developmental Milestones for Typical Middle Schoolers.”

ParentFurther, “Talking Tips.”

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