Your Son at 12: Milestones

Medically Reviewed by Amita Shroff, MD on July 05, 2023
4 min read

Your son won’t technically be a teenager for another year, but 12 is when the big transitions begin. That's why kids this age are called preteens or tweens. Their world is getting bigger on every level: physical, mental, emotional and social. Buckle up, things may get bumpy.

Why is a man’s voice coming out of your baby’s mouth? Because their voice is deepening. They’ll also start growing facial and pubic hair. At 12, puberty could be in full swing. For some, it starts earlier. For others, it’s a bit later. It's a time for deodorant, growth spurts and emerging sexual awareness. Everyone is different, so don’t be worried if your son is more or less mature at this age or taller or shorter than his peers.

Thanks to puberty, they're paying more attention to their body. They're more focused on how they look and what they're wearing. They may express an interest in joining a gym or start exercising in their room.

They're also concerned about what other kids think of them. This may change the way they act and express affection toward you, especially in front of their friends.

Their emotions seesaw. They often goes from happy to sad, kind to rude, feeling smart to feeling short on confidence. They may also feel more stress because schoolwork is getting challenging.

That’s because their brain is able to handle more complex thinking now. This goes hand in hand with their expanding vocabulary. They're better at putting what they're feeling into words, which you might see as a blessing and a curse. They're questioning their family’s values and seeing the line between right and wrong through new eyes.

This can be a confusing age for both of you, because they've starting to look and act more like an adult, but they don't have the same life experience and decision-making skills. Sometimes you may both need a reminder that they're still a 12-year-old kid.

Their social life is more important to them. This is when peer pressure starts to sneak in. At 12, it's important to them to belong, which means more independence from you and more dependence on their friends. Monitor their media use closely: Many boys play online video games, so review privacy settings and ensure personal information is not shared with other gamers.  You should set limits on the amount of their daily media usage.

Though it may not seem like it, your love and acceptance are still important to them. They may be pouty and self-centered, which can lead to lots of reactions instead of positive actions from both of you. But they need to know you see them for who they are, and that you're there to support them as they figure out who they're becoming.

Talk. Ask questions. Listen. Be honest. This is especially important when it comes to discussions around tobacco, drinking, drugs and sex. What do they know about them? What do they think about them? Without blame or shame, share the dangers and consequences of each plus your thoughts and feelings.

  • Stay present in their life; don't fade into the background because that's what you think they want.
  • If they're showing interest in a new sport or hobby, encourage them.
  • If they're putting in effort at home or school, offer up some praise.
  • Be clear about your boundaries when it comes to grades, chores and screen time.
  • When there's conflict, model healthy arguments by respecting their feelings and opinions.

Remember: Puberty can be a time of massive mood swings. It's normal for them to feel sad, but only for a short while. Depression lasts longer and plays out in multiple ways, including eating disorders and drug use.

Keep your finger on the pulse of what's happening at school. Meet their friends. Talk with their parents. Stay in the loop on their grades and performance before the report card comes home. Poor grades can mean anything from a learning disability and behavior issues to a simple visit to the eye doctor for some new glasses or contacts.

And though it may feel like learning a foreign language, it’s important to understand and monitor the forms of social media your son is using. Talk to them about the way they present themselves online and the effect it can have on college applications, future employment and more. Remind them that once an image or content is shared it can be used by the recipient in many different ways.