Your Daughter at 17: Milestones

At age 17, your daughter is in the last stage of her adolescence (the period between childhood and adulthood). But she’s still changing, growing emotionally, and learning about herself and the world. Here’s what you can expect during this important year.

In General

Your daughter’s physical changes will level off, and she’ll know her own body better. She’ll have gotten her period by now and will have reached her full adult height.

Mentally, your daughter will think like an adult. She might be focused on her plans for the future. Her goals will be a little more realistic, and she’ll have a better idea of what she wants to be.

Emotionally, your daughter will be more independent than ever. But she’ll still probably have a lot of teenage ups and downs. Like adults, teens can develop depression. If she’s sad for more than 2 weeks, that’s not normal. Call her doctor.

Socially, your daughter may find it easier to resist peer pressure. She’ll probably want to spend more time with her friends than with her family. But she’ll still need you to set limits. Talk to her about the consequences of breaking rules instead of just telling her what to do.

Dating and Sex

Your 17-year-old daughter probably thinks a lot about dating and sex. She’s starting to understand give-and-take in her romantic relationships, and she sees that other people’s happiness can be as important as her own. She’ll be more aware of her orientation (straight, gay, bisexual, etc.), and she may have sex. You can help her sort through it by talking about things like:

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Body Image

Teenage girls can be very concerned with their appearance, especially their weight. It’s normal for girls to gain some body fat when they’re teenagers. But some don’t feel comfortable with it and try to get rid of it however they can. Teenagers who dance (ballet, etc.) or are involved in sports like gymnastics, ice-skating, or track are especially at risk for eating disorders because they might feel pressure to “make weight” or look a certain way.

You can help your daughter avoid an eating disorder by talking to her about:

  • Healthy eating
  • Treating food as fuel, not a reward
  • The dangers of dieting or eating to handle her emotions
  • What she sees in magazines, on TV, or online

If you notice signs of an eating disorder, talk to your daughter. Make an appointment with her doctor for a check-up.

Alcohol and Drugs

As your daughter gets out into the world and is exposed to more things, she may come across teenagers who drink alcohol or do drugs. An estimated one in four kids between ages 12 and 17 have used drugs. Ages 16 to 18 are the peak ages for these activities. Talk openly to your daughter about substance abuse. And remember, if you drink heavily or use drugs, you’re telling her it’s okay. The same is true for smoking.

The Internet and Social Media

Your 17-year-old daughter has never known a world without the internet. While you might marvel at how fast her thumbs fly over the keyboard on her smartphone, she needs your guidance on how to stay safe online. Make sure she:

  • Knows how to control the privacy of her online profiles
  • Avoids posting personal details like phone numbers and addresses
  • Uses a good password that other people can’t guess easily
  • Lets you know if she gets messages from people she doesn’t know
  • Avoids sending pictures or videos she wouldn’t want the whole world to see
WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on March 21, 2019

Sources

SOURCES:

CAI Global: “Stages of Adolescent Development.”

Stanford Children’s Health: “The Growing Child: Adolescent (13 to 18 Years).”

Advocates for Youth: “Growth and Development, Ages 13 to 17 -- What Parents Need to Know.”

Sutter Health, Palo Alto Medical Foundation: “Parents & Teachers: Teen Growth & Development, Years 15 to 17.”

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

Nemours: “Eating Disorders.”

Mayo Clinic: “Tween and Teen Health.”

Kids.gov: “Six Tips for Keeping Teens Safe on Social Media.”

© 2019 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

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