At age 17, your son is about to start the last stage of their adolescence, that phase between childhood and adulthood. But they are still growing -- literally. Males keep getting taller into their early 20s. Here are some other things you can expect as your teen crosses the final threshold into manhood.
Your son is still changing physically, but chances are their voice is as deep as it’s going to get and they've already sprouted hair on their face.
Mentally, 17 is a crossover age for boys. Your son may be thinking about their future and goals. They may be a little more realistic about where they are going in life. Or they might still have their head in the clouds about what they want to do and be.
Emotionally, your son will be more independent than ever. They might feel like they need to challenge you, or they might sound like a “know-it-all.” They may still have a lot of teenage ups and downs. Like adults, teens can develop depression. If your son is sad for more than 2 weeks, that’s not normal, and you should call their doctor.
Their growing independence may mean they can resist peer pressure better than before, but they’ll probably want to spend more time with their friends than with their family. They’ll still need you to set limits. It might be easier to get them to obey the rules if you talk about the consequences of breaking them instead of just telling them what to do.
Dating and Sex
Your 17-year-old son probably thinks about dating and sex a lot. They’ll start to understand give-and-take in their romantic relationships, and they’ll see that other people’s happiness can be as important as their own. They’ll be more aware of their orientation (straight, gay, bisexual, etc.), and they may even have sex. You can help them sort through it by talking about things like:
- Birth control
- What to do if they are ever in a situation where they don’t feel safe
- Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)
Your son might have to make some choices about sex, but they need information so they can decide what to do. They are going to learn about sex somewhere -- might as well be from you so you know they are getting the right information.
Teenage boys can be very concerned with their appearance. Eating disorders are more common in girls, but boys can develop them as well. Teens who play sports are especially at risk because they might feel pressure to “make weight” or look a certain way.
You can help your son avoid an eating disorder by talking to them about:
- Healthy eating
- Treating food as fuel, not a reward
- The dangers of dieting or eating to handle their emotions
- What they see in magazines, on TV, or online
If you notice signs of an eating disorder, talk to your son. Bring their doctor into the conversation, too. Schedule an appointment for your son to have a check-up.
Alcohol and Drugs
As your son spends more time with their friends, they may come across teenagers who drink alcohol or do drugs. An estimated one in four kids between ages 12 and 17 have used drugs. Ages 16 to 18 are the peak ages for drinking and using drugs. Talk openly with your son about these issues. It could lower their risk of using drugs and alcohol, but it’s also important that you walk the talk. Make sure they understand the consequences when drinking and driving are met with the law. If you use them, you’re telling them it’s okay. The same goes for smoking.
The Internet and Social Media
Nine out of 10 teenagers use the internet on a mobile device like a smartphone. It’s just a part of life for your son, but they need your guidance on how to stay safe online. Make sure you talk to them about:
- How to control the privacy of their online profiles
- Not posting personal details like phone numbers and addresses
- Explain that postings on social media don't go away and could have future impact college and jobs
- Using a good password that other people can’t guess easily
- Letting you know if they get messages from people they don’t know
- Not sending pictures or videos they wouldn’t want the whole world to see