12 – 14 Years

Caring for Your 12- to 14-Year-Old


  • Children this age are encouraged to contribute around the house. Assign reasonable chores to your child and offer praise when the job is done well. This teaches your child to help others, and also instills a sense of self-sufficiency and satisfaction.
  • Encourage your child to tell you about his or her day and whether someone is hurting or bullying him or her at school.
  • Limit screen time to two hours or less each day. Children this age should not have a TV or computer in the bedroom.
  • Set aside time each day to interact with your child.
  • Regular physical activity is fun and healthy. The recommendation is one hour of physical exercise daily.
  • Answer your child’s questions about his or her changing body. Your child’s doctor can help you start a conversation about puberty and sex. There are also several age-appropriate books on the subject that you can review together.
  • All children this age should be bathing daily and wearing deodorant.


  • Eat meals together as a family whenever possible.
  • Ensure your child eats breakfast every day.
  • Limit candy, junk food and other fatty foods. Avoid soda, tea, coffee, sports drinks, juice and flavored drinks.
  • Offer fruits and vegetables at meals and as snacks.
  • Be sure your child is drinking low-fat milk or eating dairy products to maintain good growth, and healthy bones and teeth. Three servings of dairy and five servings of fruits/vegetables are encouraged each day.
  • Discuss the use of nutrition sports supplements with your child’s doctor.
  • Be a role model for your child by making healthy choices.

Mental Health

  • Show your child how to manage pressure and peacefully settle disputes. Encourage open discussion and refrain from being judgmental.
  • Help your child stay organized with school assignments to begin a smooth transition that gives him or her responsibility for schoolwork.
  • Help your child discover an enjoyable activity outside of school. This can be sports, art, music, volunteer work – anything that helps your early adolescent feel accomplished and proud.

Routines and Discipline

  • Never slap or hit your child, as it will teach him or her to hit others.
  • Hug and praise your child for behaving well, being polite and trying hard in school.
  • Set reasonable and consistent limits. When using discipline, the priority is to teach and protect your child, not to punish.
  • Be a role model for your child. Show your child how to use appropriate words when angry, advocate for your child in school and apologize if you make a mistake.

Oral Health

  • Ensure your child brushes his or her teeth twice a day, using fluoride toothpaste. Daily flossing is encouraged.
  • Your child should see a dentist every six months for routine checkups.
  • If possible, your child should wear a mouth guard during contact sports.


  • Supervise your child while playing with friends. Know who your child spends time with inside and outside of school. Know where your child is after school and what he or she is doing.
  • Use sunscreen when spending time outdoors.
  • Watch your child carefully around water. Swim lessons are encouraged.
  • A helmet should be worn when riding a bike, skiing, sledding, ice skating, horseback riding, skateboarding and in-line skating. Riding an ATV is discouraged.
  • Teach your child how to be safe with other adults. Encourage your child to tell you when a person or situation makes him or her feel unsafe. Explain that no one has the right to tell your child to keep secrets from parents.
  • Warn your child about the dangers of cigarettes, alcohol and drug use. Your child’s doctor can help with this conversation, but it is important for your child to know to come to you with any questions.
  • If you have a gun in your home, ensure the ammunition is kept separately from the weapon and both are kept safely locked away.
  • The back seat of the vehicle is the safest place for children under 13 years old. All passengers should wear a seat and shoulder belt. Parents should serve as role models and always buckle up.

This document contains general parenting information based on American Academy of Pediatrics recommendations and is not meant to replace the expert advice of your pediatrician.