Social and Emotional Development: Ages 11-13


Children at this stage have entered a highly emotional space. They are just beginning to cope with hormonal changes. They’re also hitting a time when peers will have the most influence on them. They want to be poised and have self-control, but they are often clumsy and in conflict.

At this stage, children will exhibit many of these characteristics:

  • Beginning to develop personal values
  • Learning to make appropriate decisions to resolve conflicts arising from the influence of peers
  • Defining themselves through environment, friends, clothes, culture, TV, etc.
  • Developing the understanding that there are consequences to their actions
  • Learning to analyze risk factors
  • Showing empathy
  • Learning to handle emotions such as fear, frustration and rejection
  • Learning to express individual ideas in appropriate ways
  • Participating in a lengthy project that has a visible outcome (such as skits with costumes, organizing a community program, etc.)
  • Beginning to accept personal and community responsibility
  • Developing leadership skills
  • Developing persistence
  • Exploring and examining rules to make sure the rules are fair
  • Identifying themselves with a peer group; they may do things with others that they’d never attempt alone
  • Learning to accept and value other points of view
  • Communicating with peers through a variety of methods
  • Demonstrating the ability to set personal goals

Keep This in Mind

This is a period of life when some kids start dabbling in riskier behavior (self-harm, smoking, drug use, sex, etc.). Be available to talk with them about their struggles and what they are observing with their friends’ struggles. If you sense that you need extra support outside the family, ask a school guidance counselor or your child’s pediatrician for a referral to a family counselor. Don’t try to go it alone with a serious issue. Some issues equate to slippery slopes, and problems can snowball into enormous proportions if you don’t catch them in time.