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. She probably had her first period about 2 years after her breasts started to grow, but every girl is different. It’s normal for her to start a little earlier or a little later than other girls her age.
Lots of other physical changes are happening, too. She’s probably already had a growth spurt, getting taller and developing wider hips and thighs, and she may have some acne.
Her 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 she reaches for more freedom, she begins to pull away from you. This is normal as she learns 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.
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 her peer group. Acceptance from her friends is very important, and she compares herself to them. She 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 Facebook and Tumblr. 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. She’s focused on herself, going back and forth between confidence and self-doubt. She can be self-conscious because she feels 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 her age she’s taking on more responsibility and more stress. It’s up to her to get to her classes, complete assignments, and juggle after-school activities, all while dealing with friends, increased expectations, and lots of distractions.
Her Growing Brain
Kids progress at different rates, but she’ll be developing the ability to think abstractly and may have a stronger sense of right and wrong. She’s able to think more long-term, and to set goals for herself.
Sometimes attention issues or learning problems show up now because of the more difficult demands of schoolwork in higher grades.
Her 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 she’s feeling. Make sure that what seems like teen moodiness isn’t something more serious like depression. If you have mental health concerns about her, talk with her doctor right away.
Her Safety and Health
As much as your daughter wants to be independent, she still needs your support and guidance, especially when it comes to staying safe and being healthy.
- Talk to her about the dangers of drugs, drinking, smoking, and sexual activity. Be a role model for healthy behavior.
- Always know where your teen is, when she’s coming home, and who she’s with. Reassure her that an early pick-up is always an option; if she is 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 her doctor every year and her dentist twice a year.
- Help her figure out healthy ways to deal with stress. Share with her 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 her to be active for an hour every day.
- Urge her 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 her friends’ parents.
- Get involved in her school. Go to parent-teacher conferences and join the PTA. You’ll get to know her teachers and find out more about her performance and behavior.
- If you think she might have an attention or learning problem, get her evaluated as soon as possible.
- Help build her self-esteem by recognizing her efforts even when things don’t turn out the way she hoped. Praise her actions and not just her looks.
- When there’s conflict, listen to her side and answer any questions she may have. Ask for input and follow some of her suggestions when appropriate.
- She may feel overwhelmed with school and social activities. Reassure her it’s OK to set limits.
- Ask her opinion about family decisions, and give her a chance to make more of her own decisions.
- She’s old enough to do chores around the house -- vacuuming, cleaning, doing yard work, making her own lunch -- and pitching in will help her feel valued and competent.
- Encourage her to take on new challenges, such as trying out for a sport no matter what her friends are doing and even if she doesn’t think she’ll make the team.
- Suggest volunteering for a cause she believes in. She’ll feel valued, and her self-esteem will get a boost.
- Spend time together. Do something you both like. A good conversation may just happen naturally.