Twelve to Eighteen Years

“Normal” Developmental Stages for Adolescents

Ages 11-14

Heightened awareness of pubertal changes and extreme focus on body image. Socializing with same-sex peers, often in groups, though close friends are also important.

Ages 14-17

Independence and separation from parents, mood swings, rebellion, conflict in all areas. Participation in various social/religious/athletic/political groups, often with “hero worship”

Ages 17-21

Separation and individuation are completed Focus is on vocational or education plans. Ethical and moral values emerge and sexual identity crystalizes.

Challenges for Parents

  • Prepare for change!
  • Prepare to be tested.
  • Prepare for a period of rejection.
  • Be flexible, set limits, staying firm and consistent.
  • Don’t take everything seriously; try to keep your sense of humor.
  • Take time to listen…really listen!
  • Don’t let your own adolescence influence you too much.
  • Acquaint yourself with your teenager’s environment; his/her friends, forms of entertainment, teachers, etc.
  • Talk and inform, do not preach. Use television, music, movies and magazine articles as gateways to meaningful discussions of difficult topics.


  • Do your best to offer healthy foods in your home. Minimize or eliminate foods such as sodas, chips, fried foods, candy, etc. 
  • Calcium requirement: 1200mg per day – This requires 4-6 servings of dairy products per day (one serving-8oz. Milk or lactaid, 8oz. Yogurt, or 1oz. Cheese). Other calcium sources: orange juice fortified with calcium, tofu, sardines, greens 
  • Iron requirement: 18mg per day – Sources: Liver, spinach, green vegetables, fortified cereals, beans, beef, raisins.
  • Calories: general guidelines (much individual variation). 
    • Females ages 11-14: 2400 
    • Males ages 11-14: 2800 
    • Females ages 15-18: 2100 
    • Males ages 15-18: 3000
  • Ask your doctor about 1) vitamin supplements, 2) vegetarian diets, 3) concerns you may have about your child’s dieting or a possible eating disorder.


  • Always insist on seat belt use for yourself, your children, and their friends. 
  • Discuss drinking and driving with your child. 
  • Unload and lock up, or better yet, remove all guns from the house. 
  • Know your child’s sports coaches, and insist on proper protective equipment in sports and recreation, including bicycle helmets. 
  • If your adolescent spends time alone in the house, make sure he/she knows about fire exits, fire extinguisher and neighbors’ phone numbers to call for help, etc.

Health Maintenance

  • Your teenager should receive a Tetanus/Pertussis booster and a Meningitis booster at 12 years of age. Females should start the HPV vaccine series at this time as well. 
  • At your doctor’s discretion, based on your child’s health needs and your concerns, your teenager may be tested for anemia, high cholesterol. 
  • Please recall that some health-related topics during adolescence may remain confidential between your child’s doctor and him/her.