Behavior and Daily Routines: Your 13-Year-Old Teen

Goals to Strive for and Behaviors Parents Can Expect

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Thirteen-year-old teens are finishing up one phase of life - leaving childhood behind - and entering another one - becoming a teen. This is the basis for their daily behaviors and issues. When parents keep this in mind, it becomes easier to deal with the changes in their "normal behavior."

Teen Wellness Issue: Diet and Nutrition

Your 13-year-old is going to want to decide for herself whether she wants to eat something or not.

As with many things related to teenagers, food is about a teen's choices, not their diets and wellness. They want to have a say. This is often the reason behind a picky eater. Once you begin to give your 13-year-old child the leeway to make those decisions, you may see them starting to try things they have never eaten before.

A key aspect to getting teens to eat better is in the choices you offer them - not in choosing for them. Keep your kitchen stocked with healthy snacks like fruit salads or trail mixes that contain nuts and whole grains. Pay attention to what healthy snacks they enjoy and keep them stocked.

Teen Wellness Issue: Sleep

Most 13-year-old teens are not so much concerned about sleeping as they are about having a "bedtime" rule. They feel that having a certain time in which they are told to go to bed is childish, and they are no longer a child. They are a teenager, almost in high school, and no one in high school has a bedtime, according to the world of a 13-year-old teen.

This is understandable and probably one of the first ways you will see your child stretch his independence muscles. Talk to them about the entire family's routine and then compromise on a bedtime that fits into that schedule.

Teen Wellness Issue: Exercise and Fitness

It is very important for the 13-year-old to get into an exercise and fitness habit.

Studies have shown that the more teenagers exercise, the more likely they will carry that good habit into adulthood. This is true of every teen - not just athletic kids.

Parents often feel that if their kids are in sports at school, they are getting the exercise they need. Finding a sport your child likes and is good for them - physically and for their self-esteem - is important. But organized sports last only one season and don't really help your teen maintain a healthy fitness habit. The federal government and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend that adolescents get 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise most days - preferably daily.

Thirteen-year-old teens are a bit clumsy because of their growing bodies. This may lead to one or two accidents when they are playing games or doing fitness exercises. Keep a well-stocked first-aid kit in your home and car. You may also want to carry your medical insurance card and their Social Security number when you go to their games, just in case.

Teen Wellness Issue: Stress

As they enter adolescence, your 13-year-old may worry about "being normal." They are dealing with their changing bodies. All of this will cause some stress. This stage provides a teachable moment: You can help your child learn how to relax by using healthy activities like exercise, listening to uplifting music or escaping into a good book.

Behaviors, Responsibilities and Discipline

Because your 13-year-old has been slowly developing independent responsibilities for a few years and is looking for more privileges, now is a good time to stretch their capabilities by being able to take on complicated responsibilities without much help - if any - from adults. At this age, your teenager is able to care of younger siblings on their own. They can strip the bed sheets off and remake the bed. They can do dishes. So, when your 13-year-old asks for a new freedom, attach a new responsibility so they can learn how to earn their privileges.

Discipline techniques for your child should begin to change as well. You will need to be sure you are very clear with your messages. Talk with your teen and follow through when she does something wrong. If you feel this is going to be an issue, get some help by using these parenting contracts.

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