What to Expect: Age 12

As your child enters into the teenage years, their lives begin to change rapidly. Many parents wonder what is considered normal for young adolescents. Children are developing at different rates by the age of twelve. Some may be deep in the throes of puberty and hormonal changes. Meanwhile, others are just beginning to see physical manifestations of pubertal changes.

Parents should have a general idea of what they can expect during their child’s twelfth year. These expectations and guidelines can be used to discuss your child’s growth and development with pediatricians. However, you can also use them to help encourage your child in the daily choices they will need to make.

Are you uncertain about what to expect from your twelve-year-old? Here are a few common things most children will experience at this age.

Social and Emotional Changes

One of the major challenges for parents is addressing their concerns in the face of a child’s growing sense of independence. They express less affection toward their parents. Children may even exhibit extreme moodiness surrounding common stressors. This is a turbulent time for parents, with afternoons often marked by harsh words and slamming doors.

Their friendships continue to become more important to them. Self-esteem is often determined by how well they fit in with their peers. Your child may become more obsessed with their appearance, desiring to wear makeup or purchase a certain type of clothing. Depending on their circle of friends, they may be more susceptible to peer pressure.

Parents should be certain to pay attention to the overall mood that their child portrays. They could be experiencing depression or eating disorders, both of which can lead to serious issues in the years ahead.

Cognitive Changes

As your child enters into the teenage years, they start to think about their lives in more abstract terms. Reasoning abilities grow stronger and they can learn more things than they did in years past.

Children should know the difference between right and wrong by this age. They may not always choose to apply this knowledge, but they should be able to identify the proper response in most situations. Consequences are often difficult for a child to understand at this stage of development.


In many ways, your child may experience serious setbacks in terms of their coordination this year. Growth spurts make it difficult for children to balance and to use the same hand-eye coordination that served them well in the previous years. They will have to readjust and relearn some of these skills to see the same types of success.

Personal hygiene should become more important to children at this age. They want to impress their peers, and hygiene can help to improve their overall appearance. On the other hand, some children do begin to avoid bathing and other daily necessities.

Sexuality becomes a prominent focus for many children in this age group. As their bodies grow and undergo hormonal changes, your child may feel awkward and uncomfortable. Meanwhile, they also start to be aware of themselves sexually and develop an interest in peers romantically. These are all perfectly normal feelings for a child in this age group.

This is a difficult time for your child, as their bodies and minds continue to develop. The best thing parents can do during these challenging seasons is to support their child. Offer them a safe space to ask questions, vent their frustrations, and talk about their concerns. These simple steps can make your twelve-year-old child feel more comfortable in their own skin.


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