Your Daughter at 17: Milestones

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

In General

Your daughter’s physical changes will level off, and they’ll know their own body better. They would have gotten their period by now and will have reached their full adult height.

Mentally, your daughter will think like an adult. They might be focused on their plans for the future. Their goals will be a little more realistic, and they’ll have a better idea of what they want to be.

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

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

Dating and Sex

Your 17-year-old daughter probably thinks a lot about dating and sex. They have starting to understand give-and-take in their romantic relationships, and they see that other people’s happiness can be as important as their own. They’ll be more aware of their orientation (straight, gay, bisexual, etc.), and may have sex. You can help them 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 them about:

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

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

Alcohol and Drugs

As your daughter gets out into the world and is exposed to more things, they 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 them 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 their thumbs fly over the keyboard on their smartphone, they need your guidance on how to stay safe online. Make sure they:

  • Know how to control the privacy of their online profiles
  • Avoid posting personal details like phone numbers and addresses
  • Use a good password that other people can’t guess easily
  • Let you know if they get messages from people they don’t know
  • Avoid sending pictures or videos they wouldn’t want the whole world to see; remind them that potential employers and college admissions counselors have access to their online content.
WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Renee A. Alli, MD on March 07, 2021

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.”

© 2021 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

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