This guide is intended to provide some context into what you might expect for neuro-typical fourteen-year-old development. Milestones and development are different for everyone.
Starting high school is this age’s most significant developmental milestone for most parents, caregivers, and adolescents. The transition to high school is generally considered a stressful turning point in adolescent development, but many teens also bloom during this time as they settle into their newly-formed identity.
Letting your 14-year-old figure out more and more of life without your hands-on presence can be anxiety-provoking. Keep reading to learn how to support your 14-year-old’s growth and development as they move into middle adolescence.
The major developmental milestones for 14-year-olds
Age 14 language and cognitive skills development
Your teen’s progress towards the cognitive milestones of adolescent development may come in fits and starts. High school’s more demanding academic load introduces new pressures of deadlines, homework, and grades.
By Age 14, your child may:
- Use abstract thinking to form new ideas and questions (formulate hypotheses).
- Use complex thinking to focus on less self-centered concepts and personal decision-making.
- Think more about global concepts, such as justice, history and politics.
- Complete tasks efficiently and correctly at home, school, and work.
- Earn and spend money.
- Be developing moral philosophies, including ideas around rights and privileges.
- Solve problems with more than one variable.
Age 14 social and emotional learning milestones
Brain imaging studies now show us that the part of your 14-year-old’s brain involved in decision-making and managing emotions is still under construction and will be until their mid-20s! So, while their emotional intelligence may still be a work in progress, you may notice them:
- Becoming increasingly socially responsible in their day-to-day lives and online.
- Showing a greater interest in advocacy or volunteering for a cause important to them (like social justice or climate change, for example).
- Beginning to think about romantic relationships.
- Questioning old values without losing their sense of their identity.
- Rejecting ready-made solutions from adults in favor of their own.
- Spending more time with their friends to work on goal-oriented projects or in school activities.
- Arguing with you more as they try to assert their independence.
Age 14 physical development and motor skills
The different timing of puberty’s physical changes from one 14-year-old to the next can cause significant adolescent angst. It is common for teens at the front of the puberty pack or falling behind on the development spectrum to feel bad about themselves or be overly concerned with their weight, body size, or appearance. Your job as a parent or caregiver is to provide reassurance and promote a healthy body image.
By age 14:
- Puberty-induced changes cause increases in body size, hormones, and muscle strength which can improve athletic performance.
- Adolescents may have some voice cracking as their voices lower and may start having nocturnal emissions (wet dreams). The start of nocturnal emissions generally happens at the same time as the peak in their growth spurt in height.
- They may have acne and will be growing armpit and pubic hair.
- Physical changes may be nearly complete for females; by 14, most girls will have regular periods.
Vaccines for 14-year-olds
Your healthcare provider can help you ensure that your 14-year-old is up to date with their recommended vaccines. They should receive vaccines, boosters, or catch-up vaccines if they are off schedule to protect them from the following diseases:
- Influenza (Flu) (one dose of vaccine every year)
- COVID-19 (per current CDC recommendations)
If your child has missed any vaccines or is off schedule, they can “catch up” to get back on track. Ask about getting catch-up vaccines at your teen’s camp and sports physical appointments.
Healthy eating and activity for 14-year-olds
Teenage years are a key time to focus on family meals, ways to make eating joyful, and the value of understanding necessary concepts around food – like how to read a recipe, grocery shop and make basic meals. Here are some ideas to get started!
- Help your teen understand daily or weekly goals for things like fruit, vegetables and protein. Learn about food labels, and how to spot allergens if they have an allergy.
- Does your teen eat enough foods with calcium, iron, zinc, or vitamin D? Adolescents with heavy periods (especially those not eating red meat) are at risk for low iron levels (called anemia). Talk with your child’s healthcare provider if you have concerns or questions about dietary supplements.
- Limit 100% juice, sports drinks, and other sugary beverages to no more than 4–6 ounces (120–180 ml) daily. Talk about the health risks of energy drinks and drinking too much caffeine.
- Teens who are active for more than 60 minutes per day may have increased energy or protein needs. Talk to them about how they’re feeling while playing, and if a pre or post game snack with more carbs and protein would be helpful.
- If your teen is an athlete, avoid specializing in one sport before late adolescence to prevent overuse injuries.
- Your 14-year-old should get between 8-10 hours of sleep every night. Watch for signs of sleep deprivation which can lead to serious problems for your teen’s health and well-being.
Keeping your 14-year-old safe
- Ensure your 14-year-old always wears a helmet when on a bike, scooter, skateboard, ATV, motorbike or snowmobiling, skiing, snowboarding, and playing contact sports.
- Protect your child from secondhand smoke.
- Discourage vaping. Using E-cigarettes or vaping in adolescence can cause lifelong problems for your teen’s mental health by harming the parts of their brain controlling attention, learning, mood, and impulse regulation.
- Reinforce the importance of always wearing seatbelts with your tweens. According to the CDC, motor vehicle crashes are one of the leading causes of death among 12- to 14-year-olds. Model this behavior by always buckling up.
- Impaired drivers are a threat to your teen’s safety. Give your teen example scripts for getting out of riding with a driver impaired by alcohol or drugs. Talk about the risks of driving while texting or sleep-deprived. Reinforce that they can always call you for help in these situations without fear of punishment.
- Guns became one of the leading causes of death in children ages 1 to 17 in the U.S. in 2020. Talk with your teen about gun safety and school violence. If you own a gun, consider all available safety measures, including keeping it in a secure location outside of the home.
- Look for the seven signs of self-harm and turn to your pediatrician or a mental health provider to support your teen who may be cutting.
- Your teen should continue to have annual check-up appointments with their pediatrician or healthcare provider. They may want privacy for all or part of their exam. Let them know their provider is a resource for more information about mental health, sex, and birth control.
- Continue conversations and open communication with your teen about healthy relationships, sex, sexuality, consent, and safety (such as how to prevent sexually transmitted infections and pregnancy).
- Worried about your 14-year-old’s eating habits, body image, or mental health? Contact your healthcare provider or a mental health professional specializing in eating disorders or adolescent obesity. Additional support can give your teen the tools to begin a more positive lifelong relationship with their body.
For most 14-year-olds these days, their social life is social media. It can be exhausting and frustrating to be the “screen police,” but your young teen’s brain has not developed enough to resist the addictive nature of screens. So set limits on video, television watching, and computer use to less than 2 hours daily.
- Safely monitor your teen’s safety and wellbeing (i.e., if you are concerned about cyberbullying).
- Set family ground rules for privacy. This will vary depending on your values and any history of misuse of social media. It is possible to respect your teen’s privacy while making them aware you will do some checking in. Safety check-ins and occasional monitoring will feel less like a violation if the ground rules are set as a team.
- Most experts agree that passwords should be shared with parents so that in the event of an emergency or tech failure, someone else can help. Watch for signs that your teen’s video gaming threatens their sleep, social life, or activity level. Research shows that video gaming, like gambling, may activate the reward system in the brain and can become addictive, like gambling, for about ten percent of adolescents who game.
- Warn your teen against sexting. Although it’s tough for them to understand the long-term consequences of this kind of digital footprint, it is important to start that conversation.
- Help your teen recognize how their online activities make them feel. Talk through what they can try when they notice themselves feeling uncomfortable, worried, sad, or anxious when they’re online. Remind them they can always come to you (or another trusted adult) if they need help.
Conversation starters and parenting hacks for your 14-Year-Old
One hallmark of adolescence is spending more time away from home with peers – leaving you struggling to connect with your teen, especially when competing with their screens too. The result can be awkward conversations you both want to run from.
Don’t give up. If you feel disconnected, try asking these questions to get them to open up. Many parents say car rides can be a great time to catch up with busy teens — they don’t have to make eye contact with you, and they can’t get up and walk away if they become uncomfortable. Consider having a no-screen or limited-screen policy for passengers to keep your teen from turning to their phone to escape.
Questions to ask your 14-year-old:
- Do kids at school talk about guns?
- Is there anything you would like to learn how to do?
- Do you know anyone you would say has an ideal marriage or relationship?
- What are the best and worst things about having a smartphone?
- What do you like to watch on YouTube or TikTok?
- Are there ways to connect with your friends in person more often to take the pressure off being online all the time?
- Are you looking forward to being an adult?
- Have you ever had to experience bullies at school or online? How do you usually respond?
- What do you think it means to be a good person?
Ways to help them grow and develop:
- Show an interest in your 14-year-old’s school life. Asking some of the questions listed above, even if they get annoyed with you, shows them that you care.
- The physical changes of adolescence can be confusing and embarrassing, especially if your teen is gender diverse or gender questioning. Whether their puberty is early, late, or just feels wrong, a healthcare provider and counselors can guide you and your family.
- Reassure your 14-year-old that it is normal for all genders to explore sex and sexuality through self-stimulation, also called masturbation. Some researchers advocate for teaching those with clitorises about pleasure (through self-stimulation) because if they can advocate for their own pleasure, they may be more likely to stand up for their safety in teen dating relationships.
- Decide rules and consequences for certain behaviors in advance. If you have a two-parent or a blended family, parents should have their own discussion ahead of time to be on the same page.
- Many teens get part-time jobs or volunteer as a way to gain independence and freedom, and even learn about financial responsibility (saving and spending money). If you can’t decide whether it is a good idea for your teen to get a job, encourage them to start with a summer job as a trial run.
- Try taking the National Financial Educators Council (NFEC)’s Financial Capability Test (online, free, 30 questions) with your 14-year-old to see who scores higher on this measure of financial literacy.
- Some clues your child may benefit from a doctor’s visit or check-in with their teachers include struggling in school, socially isolating themselves, or drastic behavior changes.
- Choose your battles. Don’t be afraid to hear your teen’s perspective and change course. It’s okay to say you were wrong, and apologies can definitely go both ways!
- Keep conversations with your teen positive by complimenting and praising your teen for well-thought-out decisions. Celebrate successes and point out their strengths and effort.
Reviewed by the Ovia Health Clinical Team
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