13-Year-Old Child Development Milestones

Your child’s growth and development at age 13

When your child shifts from being a 12-year-old kid to a 13-year-old adolescent, you're likely to see some interesting changes. The mental shift kids make as they begin to see themselves as teenagers, combined with the physical changes their bodies experience, can make early adolescence an interesting time.

Your 13-year-old will be sensitive to their changing bodies and take notice of the changes in their peers. Your teen may worry that he's different or may wonder if he's abnormal because he doesn't have chest hair or because he hasn't hit a growth spurt yet.

This can be hard for parents because your young teen's worries aren't always sensible, but they are real worries to your teen. Assure your teen that everyone develops at different rates and that it's normal for some teens to mature faster than others.

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

Physical Development

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

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

They grow taller, gain weight, and become physically mature. Girls become fully physically developed during middle adolescence and boys reach physical maturity during late adolescence.

Their 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.​

Key Milestones

  • Experiences rapid changes in physical appearance
  • Changes in appearance happen at different rates which can create anxiety for many young people
  • Exhibit a wide range of growth patterns between genders

Parenting Tip

It's important to talk to your teen about body image and how she feels about the changes she's experiencing.

Emotional Development

Thirteen-year-olds are dealing with hormonal shifts that can contribute to mood swings. Add school stress or peer problems and their moods may seem to shift from minute to minute.

Your young teen is starting on the road to becoming an independent young adult who "has a say" over her space, her body, and her need for private conversations with her 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 (for example, thinking her friend didn’t text back because she is mad rather than assuming her friend is busy).

Most 13-year-olds experience great fluctuations in their self-esteem. They may feel good about themselves one day and feel extremely inadequate another.

They also tend to seek affirmation from adults that they’re on the right track, even though they claim to want to do things on their own.

Key Milestones

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

Parenting Tip

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.

Social Development

As they desire increased independence from their parents, 13-year-olds rely more on friendships. They confide in their peers more and want to spend more time with friends than family.

Peer pressure can be an issue as teens often want to experience a sense of belonging. Teens often switch peers groups throughout the teen years as their interests shift.

Rebellious behavior is sometimes common during the teen years. A teen may develop different personas or go through various phases. Sometimes teens try to shock their parents or want to dress or wear their hair in new ways to express themselves.

Dating and romantic relationships often become important during the early teen years. It’s normal for teens to develop sexual interests.

Key Milestones

  • Seeks trust and acceptance from peers
  • Questions authority figures
  • Tends to reject solutions offered by parents

Parenting Tip

Be direct with your child when talking about sensitive issues, like drinking, smoking, drugs, 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.

Cognitive Development

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 developing at slightly different rates.

It’s common for 13-year-olds to think they’re immune from anything bad happening to them. As a result, they may be more likely to engage in risky behavior.

Thirteen-year-olds develop 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’re unique and think no one understands them. As they mature, they begin to develop a better understanding of the world and how other people perceive them.

Speech & Language

Most 13-year-olds communicate similarly to adults. They comprehend abstract language, such as figurative language and metaphors. They may become less literal and more figurative.

They may become concerned with moral issues as they are able to grasp abstract concepts. They are likely to recognize that breaking rules under certain conditions isn’t always wrong.

Play

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.

Having fun with peers can be an important social outlet. It can also be instrumental in helping your teen manage stress.

Key Milestones

  • Developing skills in the use of logic
  • Can solve problems that have more than one variable
  • Find justice and equality to be important issues

Parenting Tip

Talk to your teen about the many ways you might solve a single problem. Encourage your child to brainstorm several solutions to a problem before taking action. This can improve your child’s judgment and give her opportunities to practice her critical thinking skills.

Other Milestones

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.

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 see professional help if you see any red flags. 

If your 13-year-old refuses to shower or has hygiene issues, it could be a cause for concern. By this age, teens should be able to care for their bodies without much prompting.

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.

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—by giving your teen the skills he needs to make good decisions—the teen years don’t have to be tumultuous.

When your teen makes mistakes, look at it as an opportunity to help him sharpen his skills. If he repeatedly makes the same mistakes, or he’s struggling with specific issues, seek professional help.

Was this page helpful?