In high school, your child’s development really takes off. Just as with middle school development, high-schoolers develop at widely varied rates. For the most part, awkward tweens turn into high-schoolers who start looking and thinking more like adults with the skills to envision the future.
If you’re unsure what to look for at this age, learn the typical developmental milestones you can expect to see in a teen. It can help you identify possible trouble spots to discuss with your child’s teacher or physician.
The difference in growth between boys and girls is very noticeable at this age. Boys are just hitting the age at which they start to grow rapidly, while girls are starting to slow down.
By the end of high school, many girls are likely to have grown as tall as they’re going to be. Boys often are still growing and gaining muscle strength. There’s a big difference in physical milestones among individual kids. Typically, though, high-schoolers:
Learn more about how coordination and motor skills develop at different ages.
In the mid- to late-teenage years, kids start thinking less about just their own life and more about how the whole world works. But that change is a gradual process that doesn’t happen all at once. During high school, teens are likely to:
- Show an increasing ability to reason, make educated guesses and sort fact from fiction (Check out video games that can help your teen build reasoning skills.)
- Start thinking more abstractly, comparing what is to what could be (Discover board games that may help boost those critical-thinking skills.)
- Think about and come up with ways to deal with hypothetical situations
- Begin to set their own goals for the future; take other opinions into account but make their own decisions
- Understand the consequences of actions, not just today, but also in a more far-reaching way (for example, they might see that failing English isn’t just a bummer—it can mean summer school, too)
- Develop a strong sense of right and wrong; make decisions based on following their conscience
Learn more about what your teen is expected to learn in high school and how you can help him be a more independent learner.
Social and Emotional Milestones
There are huge changes in social and emotional skills between ages 14 and 18. The emotional maturity of a high school freshman is very different from that of a graduating senior. Here’s what you might see at different ages.
- Don’t want to talk as much; are argumentative
- Appreciate siblings more than parents
- Narrow down to a few close friends; may start dating (Explore ways to set house rules around dating.)
- Analyze their own feelings and try to find the cause of them
16- to 18-Year-Olds
- Start relating to family better; begin to see parents as real people
- Develop a better sense of who they are and what positive things they can contribute to friendships and other relationships
- Spend lot of time with friends
- Are able to voice emotions (both negative and positive) and try to find solutions to conflicts
From learning to drive to starting to think about the bigger picture, high school is a time of amazing change and growth. Learn more about the different paths to success your child can take after high school. Discover ways to respond when your teen resists help.
And explore Roadtrip Nation and Understood’s documentary Being You and its discussion guide to spark a conversation about your child’s future.