Your Daughter at 16: Milestones

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

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

Physical

Your baby girl isn’t a baby anymore. Her body is fully mature, or will be soon. She has the curves -- and the burdens -- that go with her womanly look.

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

Social

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

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

Emotional

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

She has a truer moral compass, or at least a more solid idea of what she feels is right or wrong. She backs up her 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 her gloom seems extreme or is ongoing, see a mental health expert.

Language

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 her 16th year:

  • She tells and writes involved, colorful stories. She’s better able to explain, describe, sum up, and argue. Her academic load is more challenging, language-wise.
  • Her sense of understanding ramps up. She keenly tunes in to others’ verbal and body language, and reads facial expressions.
  • She knows her language needs change from school to other settings, and moves between them smoothly.

If she struggles with these key life skills, a speech/language pathologist can help her become confident and get on track.

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Potential Pitfalls on the Path

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

Body Image

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

  • Remind her there’s no ideal weight number or body size for every person. Ask her doctor to help her set healthy goals based on her own body and age.
  • Steer her from shortcuts like fad diets and weight-loss products that block proper nutrition.
  • Encourage her to get an hour of exercise each day. Suggest doing something she likes, like dancing or hiking. Go along when you can.

Peer Pressure

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

Help her find ways to avoid or get out of situations that seem to be going awry. Locate other adults she can call on, too.

Bullying

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 she does on social media and her smartphone. Electronics can magnify bullying in ways that are hard to control.

Teach her the best action is to tell a school counselor, teacher, or administrator. If she’s the victim of a bully, a mental health expert for teens can help her manage it, track its source, and lessen the emotional impact it has in her later life.

Staying Safe

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 her interests. It gives her a forum to express herself and her views. But the downfall is that she can’t be sure who’s watching. Try these things to help her stay safe online:

  • Help her control her personal information and bar access by people she doesn’t know or can’t place.
  • Show her that all posts and texts can be loudspeakers that broadcast to the world.
  • Make a rule that, like other friends she wants to hang out with, she needs to introduce you to people she plans to meet offline.

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Safety in Motion

Motor vehicle crashes remain the most likely cause of accidental death for teens her age. Never stop drilling it in that she must follow all traffic and safety rules -- whether she’s behind the wheel or riding along.

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

Emotional Support

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

  • Show interest in her daily life, both in school and out. Urge her to express herself, volunteer, or join a cause she believes in.
  • Let her know her victories and efforts are a big deal to you, too.
  • Take her concerns and opinions seriously. This also gives you a window into new patterns and behavior changes.
  • If she seems mopey or unusually sad, don’t shy away from asking about thoughts of hurting herself or suicide. Mentioning it won’t make it more likely to happen. Get professional help right away if she needs it.
WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on March 21, 2019

Sources

SOURCES:

CDC: “Teenagers (15-17 Years of Age).”

Mayo Clinic: “Teens and Sex: Protecting Your Teen’s Sexual Health.”

Diane Paul, PhD., Drector of Clinical Issues in Speech-language Pathology, American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.

Mayo Clinic: “Teen Weight Loss: Healthy Habits Count.”

American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry: “Peer Pressure,” “Bullying,” Social Networking and Children.”

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