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 them 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.

Thirteen-year-old boys also adapt their talking style. For instance, you’ll hear your son talk differently to their friends than they do to their teachers or you. They will also increase the use of technology to communicate.  Peers and media will influence word choices.

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 them 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. They may start to have erections for no reason, as well as “wet dreams.” They might notice breast buds developing. 

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

How you can help:

  • Urge your son to be active. If they're not a natural athlete, they may be tempted to avoid all sports. Help them find some physical activity they like.
  • Eat meals as a family. This will help your son make healthy choices about the foods they eat.
  • Limit screen time. Boys this age shouldn’t spend more than 2 hours a day in front of the computer or TV.  Remember to keep their computer in a common area, and monitor sites visited.
  • Assure your son that these changes are normal. Tell them all boys going through puberty are in the same boat. Let them know they shouldn’t be embarrassed or ashamed. You may want to buy him anti-perspirant and skin care products.

Continued

Social

Fitting in has never been as big a deal to your son as it is now. Because of that, they are more likely to choose being with their friends over their family at home. You may also see them explore different clothes and hobbies as they try 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 they know 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 they 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

They might seem independent, but your son has mixed feelings about “breaking away” from you. That’s why they want to spend time with you one minute, then rolls their 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 them included. Your son should stay part of family decisions and activities. You’re their anchor – even though they might not seem to like it.
  • Help them get ready for the real world. At 13, your son can do chores around the house. They can also mow lawns for a neighbor. Earning their own cash will give them some freedom and help them be more responsible.
  • Be a good role model. By watching you, your son learns how to treat people, solve problems and handle their emotions.
  • Help them stand out from the crowd. If your son hasn’t yet found their special talent or hobby, help them try new things until they do.

Continued

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 their school so you know how they are doing.
  • Make homework a big deal. Put it on the schedule. Make sure they have a quiet, place to get it done. If they need help, let them know they can come to you.
  • Help track their time. Many boys this age struggle to stay on top of schoolwork. Help them stay organized with a calendar or planner so they know 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 Renee A. Alli, MD on March 14, 2021

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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