If you have a 14-year-old boy around the house, you already know that he has changed almost overnight in some ways that seem huge. Other changes might be more subtle. All boys are different, and all reach certain points in their development at different ages.
But at age 14, it’s a safe bet that your son’s rapidly emerging sense of self is going to astonish you and, at the same time, introduce new challenges into your relationship. His relationships with you, with his peers, and even with his own body, are changing, and he’s engaged in a struggle to keep up and emerge as a strong young adult.
At this age, your son is a teenager. Changes vary from person to person, but physical signs can include:
- A spurt in height, weight, and strength
- A voice that changes, gets deeper, and “cracks” from time to time
- Development of acne
- Growth in his penis and testicles
- Growth of underarm and pubic hair
- “Wet dreams” and ejaculations
Again, everyone is different, but if by age 14 your son isn’t showing some of these signs of puberty, you may want to make an appointment with a doctor for a physical exam.
Changes in Thought Patterns
Your son is most likely starting to show more complex thinking patterns, although sometimes getting those thoughts out of him may be difficult. You may notice:
- He’s developing strong likes and dislikes.
- He seems to communicate less at times.
- He’s eager to enter into heated arguments and discussions with you.
- He challenges your assumptions and solutions.
- He’s becoming interested in politics, philosophy and social issues.
At 14, your son will be testing his friendships and, most likely, his first real sexual feelings. He will very likely be dealing with peer pressure to try alcohol, tobacco and drugs. It’s a busy time in his life:
- He’s absorbed in social media, texting and instant messaging, and probably gaming.
- He shows more interest in, and is influenced by, his peer group.
- He’ll begin spending much more time with his friends.
- His sexuality is beginning to emerge.
- He’ll need more sleep.
- He’ll most likely want to stay busy with all kinds of activities.
- He’ll have both male and female friends and may have a wide social circle.
- He may be embarrassed by you and by his family in general.
At this stage in your son’s life, he’s right in the midst of puberty, which means that his hormone levels are up and down. He’ll face emotional changes and feelings that are new and strange. You may see:
- Some mood swings and, at times, he may be depressed and short-tempered
- A focus on himself (likely swinging between moments of great self-confidence great insecurity)
- That he’s “in love” for the first time
This is a time when your son will have a lot of choices to make about who to be friends with, who to follow and who he wants to be. There are lots of challenges that you can help him with and some things to pay attention to:
Substance abuse. Talk to your son about the dangers of drugs and alcohol, vaping and using e-cigarettes. Be a good listener when he talks to you about these things. Try not to judge him or his friends, because the main thing is to keep the lines of communication open. Be a good role model. Remember, he’s watching and taking his cues from you. Also, many of the drugs teens abuse are prescription meds taken from their own homes. You may want to keep them locked up.
Know his friends. Make sure you get to know the kids your son is spending time with, because he’s watching and taking cues from them, as well. Reassure him that you are available for an early pick-up in the event that the group is engaged in inappropriate activities or activities that he does not enjoy.
TV and Internet screen time. Make sure you know what your son is watching on TV and consider restricting access to age-inappropriate material. The Internet is a different story. Although kids use it for school and healthy social interaction, there are many possible dangers involved, including bullying, sexual exploitation, hate sites and plenty of pornography. Have conversations with your son about the dangers. The more you know about his online life, the better.
Sex. Your 14-year-old is undoubtedly going to be very closed-mouthed about his sexual life. But the earlier you talk openly and honestly about all aspects of it, the more he will come to you as sexual issues arise.
Freedom Within Limits
At this age, your son will look for more independence, and it’s important for you to give him some space. Let him know that privileges and freedom come with responsibility and respect.
He may treat you with some disrespect and may begin to feel that he knows everything. On the other hand, he may feel that you have very little knowledge about anything. Temper your response, but don’t let him get away with this behavior. Make sure you set some boundaries with consequences and follow through on them.
Give your son privileges based on performance. He’s old enough to be assigned chores around the house and should be expected to fulfill them. Completing homework and school assignments should also be expected with the promise of earned privileges and extra freedom based on responsibility.