Your Son at 13: Milestones

At 13, your son’s no longer a little kid, but still a long ways off from being a man. This “in between” age can be a challenge -- for both of you. Here’s a closer look at the changes your son’s going through this year and what you can do to help him grow up into a great adult.

Language

At 13, boys speak in longer, more complex sentences. They use sarcasm and humor. Instead of relying on words being said, they know to pay attention to body language and tone of voice.

13-year-old boys also adapt their talking style. For instance, you’ll hear your son talk differently to his friends than he does to his teachers or you.

How you can help:

  • Find time to talk. Many boys this age have little interest in “just talking.” Try to get your son to open up while you’re doing other things – for instance, working in the yard, driving in the car, or setting the table for dinner.
  • Ask questions that require more than “yes” or “no.” Instead of “Did you have a good day at school?” try, “What made it such a good day?”
  • Be ready to listen. When your son’s ready to talk, stop what you’re doing and give him your full attention.

Physical Development

Many 13-year-old boys are going through puberty. It’s likely that your son’s testicles and penis will get bigger and pubic hair will start to grow. He may start to have erections for no reason, as well as “wet dreams.”

As your son’s voice box and vocal cords start to enlarge, his voice will become deeper. You’ll also notice that his hair and skin start to get oily and his face may break out.

How you can help:

  • Urge your son to be active. If he’s not a natural athlete, he may be tempted to avoid all sports. Help him find some physical activity he likes.
  • Eat meals as a family. This will help your son make healthy choices about the foods he eats.
  • Limit screen time. Boys this age shouldn’t spend more than 2 hours a day in front of the computer or TV.
  • Assure your son that these changes are normal. Tell him all boys going through puberty are in the same boat. Let him know he shouldn’t be embarrassed or ashamed.

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Social

Fitting in has never been as big a deal to your son as it is now. Because of that, he’s more likely to choose being with his friends over his family at home. You may also see him explore different clothes and hobbies as he tries on different identities.

Although boys this age are starting to have a strong sense of right and wrong, peer pressure can be a problem. Many 13-year-olds test limits and try risky behaviors.

How you can help:

  • Stay on top of social media. Know what sites your son uses and ensure whether you approve of them.
  • Make sure he knows the risks of drug use. A need to feel grown-up or fit in can make drinking, smoking or trying drugs seem fun. Talk to your son about the dangers of doing so.
  • Talk about sex. Your son needs the right information so he can make good choices. Share your own values, then talk about safe sex and consent.
  • Choose your battles. Hold your ground on big issues like drugs and let go of the smaller stuff – like a messy bedroom or a haircut you hate.

Emotional

He might seem independent, but your son has mixed feelings about “breaking away” from you. That’s why he wants to spend time with you one minute, then rolls his eyes the next.

Boys this age have lots of confidence -- and self-doubt. They’re also hyper-aware of other people’s opinions and reactions.

How you can help:

  • Keep him included. Your son should stay part of family decisions and activities. You’re his anchor – even though he might not seem to like it.
  • Help him get ready for the real world. At 13, your son can do chores around the house. He can also mow lawns for a neighbor. Earning his own cash will give him some freedom and help him be more responsible.
  • Be a good role model. By watching you, your son learns how to treat people, solve problems and handle his emotions.
  • Help him stand out from the crowd. If your son hasn’t yet found his special talent or hobby, help him try new things until he does.

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Academic

Boys this age are like sponges, ready to absorb huge amounts of information. Many start to show an intense interest towards a certain topic.

Your son’s also a deeper thinker now. He’s able to make sense of concepts and see things from other points of view.

How you can help:

  • Stay informed. Attend teacher meetings and open houses at his school so you know how he’s doing.
  • Make homework a big deal. Put it on the schedule. Make sure he has a quiet, place to get it done. If he needs help, let him know he can come to you.
  • Help track his time. Many boys this age struggle to stay on top of schoolwork. Help him stay organized with a calendar or planner so he knows when class projects are due.
  • Know the signs of a learning disability. These include not wanting to write or read aloud or having trouble with word problems and recalling facts. If you see these happening, talk to your son’s teacher.
WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on April 16, 2017

Sources

SOURCES:

Understood.org: “Developmental Milestones for Typical Middle Schoolers.”

ParentFurther: “Developmental Overview: Ages 10-14,” “Talking Tips.”

Talking Point, “11 to 17 Years.”

KidsHealth from Nemours: “Communication and Your 13-to-18-Year-Old,” “10 Ways to Help Your Child Succeed in Middle School.”

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

HealthyChildren.org: “Physical Development in Boys: What to Expect.”

NorthShore University Health System: “Teenager (13 to 18 years.)”

UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital: “Your Tween: 10-to-13-Year-Olds.”

CDC: “Child Development: Young Teens (12-14 years of age.)”

Sutter Health Palo Alto Medical Foundation: “Parents & Teachers: Teen Growth & Development, Years 11 to 14.”

U.S. Department of Education: “Changes – Helping Your Child Through Early Adolescence.”

The Center for Parenting Education: “Child Development By Age.”

LD Online: “Common Signs of Learning Disabilities,” “Eating Disorders.”

OneToughJob.org/Children’s Trust: “Growth & Development: 12-15 Years.”

Children’s Health: “13-14 Years.”

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

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