Your Son at 16: Milestones

So, your son is 16. You might not have given him the car keys yet, but he’s definitely on his own road, spinning mind-blowing tales as he goes. He’s in his mid-teens -- somewhere in the space between adolescent and young man.

Development Milestones

Here are some of the milestones you can expect him to hit at this age, and some of the potential speed bumps he might meet along the way.


His body is still growing and maturing, and the end of puberty is in sight. He’s not quite caught up with fully developed girls his age, but you can see the final product coming through.

It’s time for a fresh talk about his values as well as his plans for the future, which looms closer than ever. High-risk behaviors, like having sex and taking drugs -- which include alcohol -- can damage those plans, and his body as well.


He might surprise you by turning away from his old crowd a bit, checking out new interests, and testing his stronger sense of self. He still needs his friends, though.

This freedom might lead him to the part-time job market as he starts to think about life beyond high school. You might see even less of him at home. But you’ll enjoy having fewer conflicts when your paths do cross.


Your hard-to-read teen has deeper emotions now. You might see him perk up more about a potential romantic interest. He’ll bond more closely with friends, too.

He has a truer moral compass, or at least a more solid idea of what he feels is right or wrong. He backs up his choices with a firmer stance.

Sixteen also can be tinged with sadness or depression. This can be troubling for you. It can also lead to problems both in and out of school. If his gloom seems extreme or is ongoing, see a doctor or mental health expert.


His broader world demands more complex language skills. These are crucial, not only for school, but in connecting with others. For example:

  • He can tell and write involved, incredible stories. He’s better able to explain, describe, sum up, and argue. His academic load is more challenging, language-wise.
  • His sense of understanding ramps up. He keenly tunes in to others’ verbal and body language, and can read facial expressions.

He knows his language needs to change from school to other settings, and moves between them smoothly.


Body Image

Many 16 year olds are concerned about their body size, type, and weight. If your son is overweight, he not only faces health problems like diabetes and high blood pressure, but social and self-esteem issues can make life rough, too.

You can help inspire your son to have a healthy body image by encouraging him to get an hour of exercise each day. If he’s not into sports or going to the gym, suggest doing something he enjoys, like hiking or checking out a new climbing wall. Go along when you can.

Make sure your son kicks off his day with a good breakfast. He might not want the cereal in the pantry, but a plate of last night’s leftovers might do the trick. If he’s on the go, give him some string cheese or a banana for the road.

Stock the kitchen with healthy snacks like fruit, pretzels, and low-fat yogurt or pudding. Replacing even one junk food serving per day goes a long way.

Peer Pressure

Your 16 year old is growing more secure in himself, but iffy situations will still come up. Encourage him to stick with other kids who resist peer pressure, and distance himself from those whose risky behaviors are dangerous.

Help him plot ways to avoid or get out of situations that seem to be going awry. Locate other adults he can call on, too.


Ganging up on the weak is nothing new, and bullying is something your son might encounter, either targeted at himself or aimed at someone else. With boys, bullying is often physical. He might not see it so much on school grounds or at hang-out spots; it may happen on social media or even on his smartphone. Electronics can magnify bullying in overwhelming ways.

Teach him that the best action is not to keep bullying to himself, but to tell a school counselor, administrator, or other professional. Whether he’s a victim of bullying, or a bully himself, a mental health expert for teens can help him manage it, track its source, and lessen the emotional impact it has in his later life.


Staying Safe

Social media can be a great tool for your son to meet new people and find others who share his interests. It provides a forum to express himself and his views -- but he can’t be sure who’s watching. Try these tips to help him stay safe online:

  • Help your son control his personal information and deny access by people he doesn’t know or can’t place.
  • Show him that all posts and texts can be loudspeakers that broadcast to the world.
  • Make a rule that, like other friends he wants to hang out with, he needs to introduce you to people he plans to meet offline.

Safety in Motion

Motor vehicle crashes remain the most likely cause of accidental death for teens this age. Never stop insisting he follow all traffic and safety rules -- whether he’s driving or riding along.

Insist he wear a helmet or the needed safety gear for cycling or ATV riding, and for other sports, too.

Emotional Support

Your son might act like he doesn’t need you. But he does, and he knows it. Let him know you care by taking a few, simple actions:

  • Show interest in his daily life, in school and out. Urge him to express himself with sports, theater, art, or music.
  • Let him know his victories and efforts are a big deal to you, too.
  • Take his concerns and opinions seriously. This also gives you a window into new patterns and behavior changes.

If he’s moping around or seems unusually sad, don’t shy away from asking about thoughts of hurting himself or suicide. Mentioning it won’t make it more likely to happen. Get professional help right away if you think he needs it.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on March 21, 2019




CDC: “Teenagers (15-17 Years of Age).”


Mayo Clinic: “Teens and Sex: Protecting Your Teen’s Sexual Health,” “Teen Weight Loss: Healthy Habits Count.”


Diane Paul, PhD., Director of Clinical Issues in Speech-language Pathology, American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.


American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry: “Peer Pressure,” “Bullying,” Social Networking and Children.”


© 2019 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.


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