Here are some developmental changes we could be be aware of as parents and mentors of high school students:

(This is going to seem like a lot of information… and it is… just go to the grade that you work with as a parent or mentor and focus on that section first for a bit… then look behind your grade and to the next grade for content after you’ve solidified your grade for a while.)

Grade 9

Physically

  • Has difficultly falling asleep before 11pm (it’s biological)
  • Needs nine hours of sleep and one hour of exercise per day
  • Girls still outpace guys in development
  • Guys are getting taller, smellier, hairier, and gaining muscle mass; may also experience an increase in acne, voice changes, and weird dreams
  • Girls’ bodies take on adult physical appearance; after menstruation, increase in height will slow then stop

Mentally

  • Increasingly able to focus, recall, and organize information
  • Overly self-aware; may think, “everybody’s watching me”
  • Wired for risk-taking and sensational experiences
  • Resists potentially embarrassing situations
  • “I am bored” often means “I don’t understand”

Relationally

  • Girls begin wearing make-up on a regular basis
  • Dating relationships tend to be short-lived
  • Increased interest in sexual expression (30% of ninth graders report being sexually active)
  • Say they want parents to listen more than advise

Emotionally

  • Feels empowered through choices rather than rules
  • May still feel insecure about changing body
  • Needs help navigating extreme emotions
  • May experience changes in motivation
  • Seeks experiences that create intense feelings and emotions
  • Increasingly vulnerable to addiction: self-harm, alcohol, pornography, etc.

Grade 10

Physically

  • Has difficulty falling asleep before 11pm (it’s biological)
  • Needs nine hours of sleep and one hour of exercise per day
  • Girls have likely reached adult height and body development
  • Guys may experience an increase in acne, voice changes, and weird dreams

Mentally

  • Increasingly able to focus, recall, and organize information
  • Keenly aware of global issues and may be critical of the adult world
  • Overly self-aware; may think, “everybody’s watching me”
  • Wired for risk-taking and sensational experiences
  • Tends to be curious, inquisitive, and drawn toward the supernatural

Relationally

  • Dating relationships may become more “committed”
  • Increased interest in sexual expression (41% of tenth graders report being sexually active)
  • Increased susceptibility to date violence and rape (16 years)
  • May experience depression; highest year for teen suicide
  • Desires respect and responsibilities that increase freedom; may enjoy sharing ideas with adults who will listen

Emotionally

  • Feels empowered through choices rather than rules
  • Responds well to specific praise
  • Becoming aware of their personal tendencies and patterns
  • Needs help navigating extreme emotions
  • Seeks experiences that create intense feelings and emotions
  • Vulnerable to addiction: self-harm, alcohol, pornography, etc.

Grade 11

Physically

  • Has difficultly falling asleep before 11pm (it’s biological)
  • Needs nine hours of sleep and one hour of exercise per day
  • Girls have likely reached adult height and body development
  • Guys may continue to grow in height and develop muscle mass, body, and facial hair

Mentally

  • Can be insightful and incisive about complex issues
  • Wired for risk-taking and sensational experiences
  • Tends to be opportunistic and idealistic
  • Struggles with long-term thinking
  • Expanding mental capabilities to grasp paradox, hyperbole, innuendo, and satire

Relationally

  • Dating relationships may become more “committed”
  • Increased interest in sexual expression (54% of eleventh graders report being sexually active)
  • Cares deeply about issues like control, responsibility, and freedom (both personally and globally)
  • Tends to be self-focused, busy, and unavailable

Emotionally

  • Values humor as a positive point of connection
  • Becoming more at ease with who they are; may become more honest than in previous phases
  • Often takes on more than they can handle
  • May struggle with regulating emotions and social control

Grade 12

Physically

  • Wisdom teeth may begin to “come in” (17-21 years)
  • Has difficulty falling asleep before 11pm (it’s biological)
  • Needs nine hours of sleep and one hour of exercise per day
  • Girls have likely reached adult height and body development
  • Guys may continue to grow in height and develop muscle mass, body, and facial hair

Mentally

  • May overly romanticize or catastrophize
  • Open to discussing current affairs and social issues
  • Capable of complex, multi-step problem solving
  • Still struggles with long-term planning

Relationally

  • Increased interest in sexual expression (64% of twelfth graders report being sexually active)
  • Less available for family time
  • Wants to feel ownership in personal decisions
  • Shows respect for others’ opinions and able to compromise
  • More at ease around adults

Emotionally

  • Becoming more emotionally stable, but still needs support and grace
  • Often thrives in a particular area of interest
  • Values being true to themselves
  • Frequently demonstrates initiative for personal interests

The chart above details the mental and physical timeline from birth through graduation. You can click on it to make it bigger (or click here).

Developmental information is helpful for general understanding. Obviously these lists are broad markers for students in this developmental area. These lists transport adults back in time so we can remember what was happening to us during tha time. Often we are not aware of what is happening to us in the moment we are in it, so we need adults with perspective to give students hope that they can make it through the tumultuousness of adolescence. Knowing this information is helpful for us to offer wise advice and healthy perspective to students.

source: Phase Summaries justaphase.com/resources/for-leaders

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here