13-Year-Old Child Development Milestones

Your child’s growth and development at age 13

As your child makes the transition from being a 12-year-old kid to a 13-year-old adolescent, you are bound to see some interesting changes. Not only will your child be making a mental shift as they begin to view themself as a teenager, but they also will be experiencing a variety of physical and emotional changes as well.

For instance, your 13-year-old may become sensitive to their changing bodies or take notice of the changes in their peers if they are slower to develop. This realization may cause them to worry that they are different or abnormal in some way—especially if they are not growing body hair or have not hit a growth spurt yet. They also will be experiencing a variety of emotional changes they begin to spend more time with their peers.

For parents, this time period can sometimes feel challenging because you may have your own concerns while also struggling to make sense of your teen's worries. But rest assured the teen years do not have to be a tumultuous time and can be some of the most rewarding years of parenting if you know what to expect.

Below we help remove some of the mystery surrounding teen development by walking you through the development of an average 13-year-old. You will find information on what you can expect from your teen cognitively, physically, emotionally, and socially as well as tips on how to keep your teen safe at this age. With a little knowledge and some useful tips, you will be able to navigate this stage in your child's development like a pro.

13 year old child development milestones
Illustration by Emily Roberts, Verywell

13-Year-Old Language and Cognitive Milestones

While 13-year-olds have fairly good problem-solving skills, they also have difficulty thinking about the future. They may also struggle to think about the consequences of their behavior before they act. This has to do with different parts of their brains develop at slightly different rates.

"Although 13-year-olds are starting to have a more concrete thinking style, their brains are still developing," says Florencia Segura, MD, FAAP, a pediatrician with Einstein Pediatrics in the Washington D.C. metro area. "They also tend to be very self-conscious at this age and have a tendency to believe they are the center of attention. If they have a pimple, then everyone is looking at it."

Thirteen-year-olds are also developing the ability to think abstractly. Instead of only thinking in terms of tangible objects, they begin to understand concepts such as faith and trust. They may also think they are unique or believe that no one understands them. As they mature, they will develop a better understanding of the world and how other people perceive them.

It also is common for 13-year-olds to think they are immune to anything bad happening to them, Dr. Segura says. Consequently, they may be more likely to challenge family rules or school rules. "They know what is right and wrong, but may still push the limits," she says. "They are beginning to break out of that childhood mold."

Teens this age also may become concerned with moral issues as they are able to grasp abstract concepts and are likely to recognize that breaking rules under certain conditions is not always wrong. As far as language development, most 13-year-olds communicate similarly to adults. They comprehend abstract language, such as figurative language and metaphors, and they may become less literal and more figurative as they mature.

"Depending on the child, they also may find school more challenging such as math getting harder," says Jonathan Jassey, DO, FAAP, a pediatrician and father of three in Bellmore, New York. "As a result, their cognition in school may be challenged as they are learning and handling more."

Additional Cognitive Developments

  • Develop skills needed when using logic
  • Can solve problems that have more than one variable
  • Question authority figures
  • Tend to reject solutions offered by parents
  • Find justice and equality to be important issues

13-Year-Old Physical Milestones

Most 13-year-old teens are dealing with the emotional and physical changes that accompany puberty, so it's normal for your teen to feel uncertain, moody, sensitive, and self-conscious at times. During this time, it becomes more important than ever to fit in with peers.

At 13, your teen is beginning to grow taller, gain weight, and become physically mature. Girls become fully physically developed during middle adolescence and boys reach physical maturity during late adolescence.

"Physical development is variable depending on the teen," says Dr. Jassey. "Usually females start developing between age 9 and 14 and boys begin developing between 10 and 15. On the flip side, you will have those who have not developed yet."

Dr. Jassey says you are likely to see a wide range of physical changes at this age. Girls may experience breast development and the start of their menstrual cycle, while boys may experience changes in their voice, testicular growth, and an increase in muscle mass.

Additionally, both males and females may begin developing body hair and their sweat glands will become more active. Some kids will even begin to develop acne at this age due to hormonal changes.

Interestingly, boys who mature physically the earliest may be more confident. But girls who mature earlier are often more self-conscious of their bodies.

This rapidly changing physical appearance can lead to self-conscious feelings. Sometimes teens struggle with appearance-related issues, such as acne or being overweight. Body image issues, such as eating disorders, may also develop during the teen years, Dr. Segura says.

"Eating disorders can occur with boys or girls," she says. "If you notice they are starting to be restrictive with food, overeating, experiencing weight loss, or hiding food, you need to talk to a healthcare provider about what you are witnessing."

Additional Physical Developments

  • Experience rapid changes in physical appearance
  • Feel anxious or insecure due to the different rates at which peers experience change
  • Exhibit a wide range of growth patterns between genders

13-Year-Old Emotional and Social Milestones

Thirteen-year-olds are dealing with hormonal shifts that can contribute to their mood swings. Add school stress or peer problems and their moods may seem to shift from minute to minute. Remember, your young teen is on the road to becoming an independent person who wants to make their own decisions about their body, their activities, and their friends.

At this age, most teens feel like the world revolves around them. They might think everyone is staring at them or they may assume everyone else’s behavior is somehow because of them, explains Dr. Segura. For example, when a friend doesn't text back, they might assume they are mad rather than assuming the friend is busy.

Most 13-year-olds also experience great fluctuations in their self-esteem. They may feel good about themselves one day and feel extremely inadequate another. They also may seek affirmation from you that they are on the right track, even though they claim to want to do things on their own.

While most 13-year-olds have given up their childhood toys, they still play with their friends in a variety of ways. From slumber parties and camping out in the backyard to board games and sports activities, most 13-year-olds want to be active with their friends.

"Thirteen-year-olds tend to want to spend more time with their friends than with family members," Dr. Segura says. "They also start to form an identity at this age as they experiment with hobbies, activities, clothes, hairstyles, and music. They try on different identities to see what fits."

Your teen may develop different personas or go through various phases, choosing to wear their hair in new ways to express themselves. You also may notice your teen pulling away from the family.

While it can be hard to watch your child spend less time with you, having fun with their peers can be an important social outlet and is an integral part of their development. It can also be instrumental in helping them manage stress.

As your 13-year-old becomes more independent, they also may begin to rely more on friendships, often confiding in them instead of you. For this reason, make sure you are regularly communicating with your child not only to find out how things are going in their life and what they think about different things, but also to touch base on important topics like sex, drugs, vaping, consent, bullying, and more.

These conversations are especially important because peer pressure can become a factor, especially because most teens this age are concerned about fitting in or of belonging, says Dr. Segura. Not surprisingly, teens often switch peers groups as their interests shift, so getting to know your child's friends becomes even more important. It's also normal for them to develop sexual interests at this age.

Although they may not be officially dating yet, it is important to have conversations about healthy relationships and consent. Also, if your child is exploring their gender identity or sexual orientation, it is important to list with an open mind.

"This is a time when they are exploring, asking questions," Dr. Segura says. "Being supportive and listening is important and if you have questions or do not understand what your child is experiencing or how to support them, talk to your pediatrician."

Additional Social and Emotional Developments

  • Concerned about physical development and appearance
  • See themselves as always being center stage
  • Seek trust and acceptance from peers
  • Strive for independence yet want and need adult approval

Other Milestones for Your 13-Year-Old

By this age, many teens have their own social media accounts and they’re able to communicate with their friends privately. For some teens, this provides a sense of relief as they often talk to their friends in a slightly different manner than they speak to their parents.

For other 13-year-olds, electronic communication means added pressure. They may feel compelled to join in conversations to be accepted by their peers or they may feel as though their friends are having more fun than they are when they view social media pictures.

"Expect some mood changes at this age," Dr. Jassey says. "Although this doesn't give teens the right to walk over their parents, you need to try to weather the storm and not take it personally. You have to pick and choose your battles at this age."

How to Help Your 13-Year-Old Learn and Grow

While mood swings are usually normal, it's important to keep an eye out for mental health problems. Depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues may emerge during this time. It's also important to talk to your teen about body image and how they feel about the changes they're experiencing.

"Keep in mind, teens this age don't like just talking," Dr. Segura says. "They are more likely to open up when you are doing other things like taking a walk, riding in the car, or shooting a basketball."

If your teen is experiencing challenges, brainstorm with them on ways in which they might solve a single problem. Encourage your child to think of several solutions before taking action. This simple step can help improve your child’s judgment and give them opportunities to practice their critical thinking skills.

Also, be sure you are direct with your child when talking about sensitive issues, like drinking, smoking, drugs, sexting, and sex. In order for your teen to see you as credible, acknowledge the slight upside that tempts teens to try these things. Say something like, “Kids usually think they’re more fun when they’re drinking alcohol,” and then explain the consequences.

How to Keep Your 13-Year-Old Safe

When it comes to safety at this age, there are a number of things for parents to consider. For instance, kids this age should be reminded to wear seatbelts when riding in a car and helmets when on scooters, bikes, or skateboards, Dr. Segura says.

This also is the age when kids may get their own social media accounts or cell phones, so it is important to talk to them about how to stay safe online. Talk about what to share and not to share as well as establish some ground rules regarding social media use. Consider making your child's account private and make sure you know what they are doing online by following their accounts, Dr. Jassey suggests.

"Make sure you have productive conversations about how to do things the right way online," he says. "Talk about not hurting people online as well as how to deal with emotions when they are hurt by something others post. I also like the Life 360 app which lets me know where my kids are. It is like a security blanket for parents."

Finally, keep in mind that your teen wants to spread their wings and become more independent. Look for safe ways for them to do that. Think about your community and your teen's maturity level when making decisions about what you will allow them to do on their own.

"Try to find that happy balance between setting rules and allowing freedom in a safe and productive manner," says Dr. Jassey. "Being overbearing can be counterproductive at times. Make sure you are also having productive conversations about drinking, vaping, and sex and teach life lessons when you can."

When to Be Concerned 

While all children develop at slightly different rates, it’s important to keep an eye on how your child is progressing. Some emotional issues or mental health problems may emerge in the early teen years and it’s important to seek professional help if you see any red flags, Dr. Segura says.

"Mood disorders may develop around this age," she says. "It is not uncommon for 13 year olds to experience depression and anxiety. If your teen has a persistently different mood, is disinterested in things, has a lack of motivation, is sleeping more, or even appears to be experiencing panic attacks, talk to your pediatrician."

Even refusing to shower or displaying hygiene issues could be a cause for concern. By this age, teens should be able to care for their bodies without much prompting.

Meanwhile, if your child is struggling academically, it could also be a cause for concern. Sometimes, learning disabilities or ADHD don’t become apparent until the teen years. Talk to your child’s teachers or discuss the issue with your child’s pediatrician if you are concerned.

"It is important to stay involved and show your teen that you care about school and their success," Dr. Segura says. "This means attending conferences and helping them develop a homework schedule. You also may have to help them keep track of their activities and responsibilities because their frontal lobe is still developing and they may need help staying organized."

A Word From Verywell

The teenage years can be a bit of a rollercoaster—for both you and your teen. But if you lay the groundwork now and provide your teen with the skills they need to make good decisions, the teen years will not be as tumultuous as you first imagined, especially if you approach it with the right mindset.

When your teen makes poor choices or decisions that do not make sense, try to remain calm. Look at these incidences as opportunities to help them learn from their mistakes and sharpen their skills. If they repeatedly make the same mistakes or struggle with specific issues, you may want to talk to a healthcare provider or mental health professional.

4 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. American Academy of Pediatrics. Early adolescence (ages 10 to 13).

  2. Michigan State University Extension. 12- to 14-year-olds: Ages and stages of youth development.

  3. The Whole Child. Signs of normal development stages ages 13-18.

  4. Reynolds BM, Juvonen J. The role of early maturation, perceived popularity, and rumors in the emergence of internalizing symptoms among adolescent girlsJ Youth Adolesc. 2011;40(11):1407-1422. doi:10.1007/s10964-010-9619-1

Additional Reading

By Sherri Gordon
Sherri Gordon is a published author and a bullying prevention expert. 

Originally written by
Amy Morin, LCSW
Amy Morin

Amy Morin, LCSW, is the Editor-in-Chief of Verywell Mind. She's also a psychotherapist, international bestselling author and host of the The Verywell Mind Podcast.

Learn about our editorial process