Your 13-Year-Old's Social and Emotional Development

An In-Depth Look at Normal Development for Young Teens

13-year-old boy playing guitar
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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. They will be as confused by the changes as you will be.

Whether you have a 13-year-old boy or girl, it's a difficult time. Here is what to expect as your tween enters his or her teen years.

Mood Swings and Moodiness

Thirteen-year-old teens 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.

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. 

Worries About Being Normal

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.

Need for Privacy

Thirteen-year-old teens need to have their own personal time and space. If you haven't already, it's time to start knocking on your teen's bedroom door before entering and never enter the bathroom without asking if your teen is in there.

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. While it's important to stay involved in your teen's life, allow your teen to gain some freedom and independence.

Worried That You 13-year-old Teen's Development Isn't Normal?

While some 13-year-olds are still very much "kids" who play with toys and don't want to shower, others think they're grown up. Both ends of the spectrum are normal. Here's what else you can expect from your 13-year-old:

  • At this age, teens will feel like they are being watched and judged.
  • They are very concerned about their body image.
  • Their self-esteem is vulnerable or at a low-ebb.
  • They often do not think their parents know what they are feeling.
  • Angry and hurt feelings may turn to tears over almost anything as they ride their emotional roller coaster.

Many parents of 13-year-old teens worry that their social and emotional development is too fast or not fast enough. Or, parents start to see warning signs of substance abuse or signs of emotional problems as adolescence is often the time these social and emotional problems surface. If this is true for your teen, seek help right away. This is just the start of the teen years. You'll need to help each other through them.