What It’s Like for Your Child to Be 13 and How to Help Him Through It

What It's Like for Your Child to Be 13 and How to Help Him Through It

On every thirteen birthday, a caring adult should ask the child, “Did you warn your parents?” Here are some of the things thirteen-year-olds go through, and what you can do to help.

Judging Other People

Many thirteen-year-olds are in enormous junior highs or middle schools. It’s a way for them to understand the world around them. Judging other people is also part of the process of thirteen-year-olds to figure out who they are and who they want to be. Babies learn about objects by categorizing their color, use, taste, feel, etc.; teenagers learn about people in a similar way. They’re continually categorizing people and into groups, e.g., nerd, emo, rich kid, popular, etc. Kids will often try out the different groups mentioned above. One day they’ll show up to school as emo, then cowboy the next. Having fixed categories allows them to experiment with different styles and personas. Make sure they know that deep-down we’re all similar.

Changing Every Day

Thirteen-year-olds may choose to try on different personas from day to day, and they’re also physically changing. They can have extreme growth spurts (especially boys) that are painful. Many girls are adjusting to wearing pads and bras. Some are wearing braces or retainers that are uncomfortable and hard to clean. Be empathetic that they’re probably enduring some pain or discomfort. When you drive them to the orthodontist to get their braces (or their broche dentaires for our French readers) tightened, take them out for ice cream after the appointment.

Wondering if They Are Normal

With all of the changing and the judging, there are still some parts left to mystery. Whatever changes they’re bodies are going through, they can’t be sure that they’re normal. They also question whether their thoughts and feelings are normal too. None of this is anything they’re going to want to talk about with you. The best thing to do is give a lot of positive feedback and make sure they know you love them unconditionally.

Living in the Moment

Thirteen-year-olds think about themselves, or something immediately happening to them. They don’t have to think about the future, and they have very little responsibility. Help them out by letting them retain their youth, but integrate more significant ideas and chores into their lives.

Losing Things

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Thirteen-year-olds are just venturing into responsibility territory. They have to change classes when the bell rings and make sure all of their belongings come with them. They can leave their gym bag under the desk, their cell phone in the bathroom, their homework at home. Losing track of their things is a daily thing. Some of this may be how they have to learn, but you can help them out by making sure they have bags and binders to organize what they have. You can also buy them some tiles so they can relocate what they’ve lost.

Being Sleep Deprived

According to Nationwide Children’s, teenagers sleep schedule shifts, and they don’t get tired until 11:00. They need nine and a half hours of sleep, so that would mean that they should wake up at 8:30. If their school starts early, this could be a problem. Sleep deprivation causes mental impairment and behavior issues, both of which are not conducive to learning. You can help by making sure they go to sleep at the same time every night and turn off electronics earlier in the evening. You can also see if there’s a nearby school that starts later, homeschool them, or make sure they get a nap in the afternoon.

Being thirteen is challenging, but it’s also a fascinating time of discovery. With some guidance, your thirteen-year-old can ease gracefully out of childhood.

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