In high school, kids’ development really takes off. Just as with middle-schoolers, high-schoolers develop at widely varied rates. For the most part, tweens turn into high-schoolers who start looking more like adults while also building the skills to think about and plan for the future.
If you’re unsure what to expect these years, look at the developmental milestones you can expect to see in a teen. But remember, not all kids develop at the same rate, so if your child isn’t doing all of these things at the same time as other teens, don’t panic.
The difference in growth between boys and girls is very noticeable at this age. And there’s a big difference in physical milestones among individual kids, too. Boys are hitting the age at which they start to grow rapidly, while girls are just 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, on the other hand, often are still growing and gaining muscle strength.
Have a big appetite
Need more sleep and may be sleepy in school if it starts early
Have the visual-spatial coordination needed to help judge distance and speed and react quickly when learning to drive
Are more agile and coordinated, making it easier to do things like type on a keyboard or build complex projects (Some teens may be uncoordinated, though, because they’re growing so quickly.)
In the mid- to late-teenage years, kids start thinking not just about their own lives, but also more about how the whole world works. But that change is a gradual process. It 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
Start thinking more abstractly, comparing what is to what could be
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 far-reaching ways (For example, understanding that failing English isn’t just a bummer—it can mean summer school, too.)
Develop a strong sense of right and wrong and make decisions based on following their conscience
Write with complexity about a variety of content areas (science, social studies, literature)
Use strategies to search for, use, and compare information from multiple sources
Use numbers in real-life situations (like calculating tax or a tip)
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.
Can recognize personal strengths and challenges
Are embarrassed by family and parents
Strive to be independent
Are eager to be accepted by peers and to have friends
May seem self-centered, impulsive, or moody
Don’t want to talk as much; are argumentative
May appreciate siblings more than parents
Narrow down to a few close friends and may start dating
Analyze their own feelings and try to find the cause of them
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 a lot of time with friends
Are able to voice emotions (both negative and positive) and try to find solutions to conflicts