Hormone levels, emotional issues, social pressures -- at this age, your daughter is going through lots of changes, some easy to see and some not.
Puberty in girls starts between ages 8 and 13 and ends around age 14 or 15. Breasts start to develop first, followed by hair growth under the arms and in the pubic area. They probably will have their first period about 2 years after their breasts start to grow, but every girl is different. It’s normal for them to start a little earlier or a little later than other girls their age.
Lots of other physical changes are happening, too. They've probably already had a growth spurt, getting taller and developing wider hips and thighs, and they may have some acne.
Their Feelings and Friends
Girls this age are struggling to figure out who they are and how they fit in. Your daughter may question rules at home and at school and challenge them. As they reach for more freedom, they begin to pull away from you. This is normal as they learn how to be more independent.
Girls can feel both excited about this new stage in their lives and self-conscious about their changing bodies. It’s common for young girls to worry about how they look and be more concerned with body image and clothes. They may also feel anxiety and these emotions may change daily.
Because of this concern -- often magnified by the media -- girls this age may try dieting. It’s not a good time to cut back on food, though, since they’re still growing. Eating disorders sometimes show up in the early teens.
At 14, your daughter is more involved with their peer group. Acceptance from their friends is very important, and they compare themselves to their pals. They may feel pressure to try drugs, alcohol, or cigarettes or to have sex. Most teens text their friends and are active on social platforms like Tik-Tok or Snapchat. They might spend more time on social media than you might realize and possibly late at night when you’re not aware of it.
You’ve probably heard that teens can be moody, and your 14 year old is no different. They're focused on themselves, going back and forth between confidence and self-doubt. They can be self-conscious because they feel like the center of attention. Hormonal changes, struggles with self-image, acceptance by friends, and greater distance from you can all play a part.
School is at the center of your 14-year-old’s life, and at their age they're taking on more responsibility and more stress. It’s up to them to get to their classes, complete assignments, and juggle after-school activities, all while dealing with friends, increased expectations, and lots of distractions.
Their Growing Brain
Kids progress at different rates, but they’ll be developing the ability to think abstractly and may have a stronger sense of right and wrong. They are able to think more long-term, and to set goals for themselves.
Sometimes attention issues or learning problems show up now because of the more difficult demands of schoolwork in higher grades.
Their brain is still growing, and brain changes during the teen years may explain why mental disorders can appear. Check in with your daughter frequently to see how they're feeling. Make sure that what seems like teen moodiness isn’t something more serious like depression. If you have mental health concerns about them, talk with their doctor right away.
Their Safety and Health
As much as your daughter wants to be independent, they still need your support and guidance, especially when it comes to staying safe and being healthy.
- Talk to them about the dangers of drugs, drinking, smoking, and sexual activity. Be a role model for healthy behavior.
- Always know where your teen is, when they’re coming home, and who they're with. Reassure them that an early pick-up is always an option; if they are uncomfortable or not enjoying the group activity, you are a call or text away.
- Serve healthy food, and eat together as a family as much as possible.
- Make sure your 14 year old visits their doctor every year and their dentist twice a year.
- Help them figure out healthy ways to deal with stress. Share with them how you do it.
- Limit screen time to 2 hours a day (not including homework time), and be aware of what your daughter watches and reads.
- Encourage them to be active for an hour every day.
- Urge them to get enough sleep; most teens don’t. Lack of sleep makes it harder to pay attention at school and can increase moodiness.
More You Can Do
Conflict with your young teen is natural. Pick you battles. Choose important issues, like safety and school, to focus on. Don’t worry so much about clothes and hairstyle.
Other things you should pay attention to:
- Get to know your daughter’s friends and their parents.
- Get involved in their school. Go to parent-teacher conferences and join the PTA. You’ll get to know their teachers and find out more about their performance and behavior.
- If you think they might have an attention or learning problem, get them evaluated as soon as possible.
- Help build their self-esteem by recognizing their efforts even when things don’t turn out the way they hoped. Praise their actions and not just their looks.
- When there’s conflict, listen to their side and answer any questions they may have. Ask for input and follow some of their suggestions when appropriate.
- They may feel overwhelmed with school and social activities. Reassure them it’s OK to set limits.
- Ask their opinion about family decisions, and give them a chance to make more of their own decisions.
- They're old enough to do chores around the house -- vacuuming, cleaning, doing yard work, making their own lunch -- and pitching in will help them feel valued and competent.
- Encourage them to take on new challenges, such as trying out a sport no matter what their friends are doing and even if they don’t think they’ll make the team.
- Suggest volunteering for a cause they believe in. They’ll feel valued, and their self-esteem will get a boost.
- Spend time together. Do something you both like. A good conversation may just happen naturally.