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Ages 14-18: Keep lines of communication open during this life-changing stage

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Teen hanging out at school

Is your teen not talking to you one day but asking your advice on colleges the next? It can be a frustrating yet exhilarating time for children and their parents.

And it’s all part of normal development.

As parents, we often hear the term developmental milestones and know it’s important our children hit these markers at key moments of growth. But what exactly do child development specialists mean by that phrase?

“First, it’s important to remember that every child is an individual,” says Randee Gabriel, Children and Family Services manager at 211 Palm Beach/Treasure Coast. “There are no two children that will hit every milestone at the exact same time. Still, there are crucial cues to look for at each age.”

Here’s some insight from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on what’s normal for your child’s development at this stage.

Young teens (14 years)

This is a time of many physical, mental, emotional and social changes. At this age, teens make more of their own choices about friends, sports, studying and school. They become more independent with their own personality and interests, although parents are still very important.

Key developmental milestones:

  • Showing more concern about body image, looks and clothes
  • Focusing on themselves; going back and forth between high expectations and lack of confidence
  • Experiencing more moodiness
  • Showing more interest in and influence by peer group
  • Expressing less affection toward parents, even to point of rudeness or short tempers
  • Feeling stress from more challenging schoolwork
  • Developing eating problems 
  • Feeling sadness or depression, which can lead to poor grades, alcohol or drug use, unsafe sex and other problems.

Teenagers (15 to 18 years)

This is a time of change for how teenagers think, feel and interact with others, and how their bodies grow. This is also the time to prepare for more independence and responsibility. Many teenagers start working, and many will leave home after high school.

Key developmental milestones:

  • Displaying more interest in romantic relationships
  • Going through less conflict with parents
  • Having a deeper capacity for caring and sharing, and for developing more intimate relationships
  • Spending less time with parents and more time with friends
  • Feeling a lot of sadness or depression, which can lead to poor grades at school, alcohol or drug use, unsafe sex and other problems.
  • Becoming more concerned about future school and work plans
  • Being better able to articulate reasons for their own choices, including about what is right or wrong

Regular screening is essential

 “Every age group brings within itself new changes and skills required,” Gabriel says. “Rescreening at each interval is imperative to identify these shifts and ensure healthy development over the long term.” 


• Randee Gabriel, Children and Family Services manager, 211 Palm Beach/Treasure Coast
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services 

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