You may notice that your 13-year-old teeters somewhere in between striving for a newfound independence and clinging to the childlike behaviors of preadolescence. Not only is your child adjusting to a multitude of bodily changes during this time, he is undergoing a natural process of self-discovery through exploring and understanding his relationship to the world and to his peers. The transition into adolescence may not always be an easy one for your teen or for you. Gaining awareness of what lies at the forefront of his thinking can enable you to offer your support through this challenging time.
Physical Changes and Image
Thirteen-year-olds undergo a number of physical changes, including height and weight increase and the transition into puberty. Every adolescent is different and experiences physical shifts at various times throughout the teenage years. According to Scholastic.com, children this age experience a heightened sense of self-consciousness, causing them to spend more time thinking about their image. Current fashions, hairstyles and image-enhancing techniques may play a significant role in your 13-year-old's thinking. Changes brought on by hormonal shifts can also begin to trigger thoughts regarding sexuality.
The average 13-year-old is beginning to understand more adultlike concepts and feelings, yet simultaneously continues to identify with a childish perspective. It is likely that children in this age group can experience confusion regarding self-identity and how to understand their fluctuating emotions. According to Scholastic.com, the National Institute of Mental Health reports that the parts of the brain that process emotional responses are acutely active in young adolescents and that areas of the brain that keep impulsive reactions under control are not yet fully matured. Therefore, your 13-year-old may seem preoccupied with emotional ups and downs.
The average 13-year-old encounters a significant phase in which group acceptance and belonging becomes paramount to the formation of their identity. They typically demand more independence, take on more challenges and spend more time thinking about their choice of peers and social circle than their role within the family.
In 2005, the Kaiser Family Foundation surveyed over 2,000 8- to 18-year-old children to determine how much time the average child spends playing video games. The results demonstrated that a child in this age range spends an average of 49 minutes per day on video games. A similar study conducted by the same organization in 2010 found that the average teen spends seven and a half hours a day consuming media in some form: television, video games, music, internet or social networking. According to the University of Wisconsin Extension, a 2009 survey performed by Common Sense Media and Benenson Strategy Group reports that 80 percent of U.S. teens have cell phones and that teens send an average of 440 text messages a week. CTIA and Harris Interactive conducted a survey in 2008 on teens and cell phone usage, and results demonstrate that 47 percent of U.S. teens say their social life would cease to exist without the use of their cell phones. These figures reflect that the average 13-year-old most likely spends a great deal of time thinking about media use.
The Bigger Picture
This is the age when children commonly begin to develop the ability for abstract thinking. As a result, 13-year-olds may begin to show interest in philosophical, political and social issues. An article in "Time" magazine points out that the average U.S. teenager has an increased number of serious issues to ponder compared to teens from past generations. A survey conducted by "Time" in 2005 reports that 46 percent of 13-year-olds believe that the United States will be a worse place to live by the time they are their parents' age, a figure illustrating the awareness that children this age possess in regards to global issues.
- Scholastic: Social Development in 11-13 Year Olds
- Lucile Packard Children's Hosptial at Stanford: The Growing Child, Adolescent (13 to 18 Years)
- Time Magazine: What Does It Mean to Be 13?
- Psychiatric Times: Children and Video Games, How Much Do We Know?
- University of Wisconsin Extension: Teens and Technology
- The Washington Post: Teens Are Spending More Time Consuming Media, on Mobile Devices
- Chad Baker/Ryan McVay/Digital Vision/Getty Images