I’ll never forget the time we had 11 kids in our house with 7 of them as teenagers. We had run a foster home for many years, but never imagined we’d have this many teenagers, let alone at the same time. Let it never be said that God doesn’t have a sense of humor.
People wondered what it was like having so many children in our house. I always told them when you have five of your own, a few more doesn’t really make a difference. However for those who’ve raised a few teenagers you know this isn’t really the case.
Help! My child’s in high school, what can I expect of this age?
Age of mental development
The high school aged person may appear to have an adult mental capacity, but their minds are not yet fully developed. They may be able to pass a driver’s test, yet not be mature enough to drive safely. They may have more information on a subject than we, or have more “street knowledge” than an adult, but the capability to use it wisely is lacking.
This is why parents say things like – “Do you believe everything your friends tell you?” or the ever so popular, “Just what were you thinking?” The answer to these questions is that your teenager may not be able to think things through, especially under stress.
According to researchers at NIH’s National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) and University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) the “higher-order” brain centers, such as the prefrontal cortex, don’t fully develop until young adulthood. This is because grey matter wanes in a back-to-front wave as the brain matures and neural connections are pruned. The researchers discovered that the last thing to develop in the brain was the frontal lobes. These are the part of the brain that helps put on the brakes when one desires to take a risk or is looking for a thrill.
So next time you’re tempted to ask them if they thought things through, don’t. Save your energy for more important battles.
Age of experimentation
This is the beginning of an age of experimentation. Senses are keen, energy is high, and their curiosity can drive them to extremes. Thus they begin to explore beyond what they have been told by their parents.
Now some mistakenly take this as a sign of rebellion, but it is not. To most young people this is not rebellion. It is the attempt to find out if what they have been led to believe is true. They are searching for a philosophy of life, to discover for themselves what is true, false or just an exaggeration.
This is why it’s vital not to exaggerate or manipulate them into believing something is true or untrue. Believe me, they will test what you say, and if they find it untrue enough times, you will lose their respect.
Age of sexual development
This is often confused with the age of experimentation. However I think it’s more than that. I found that most high school students understand the importance of intimacy, but don’t know what it looks like with the opposite sex. Up to this point they had it with their family, friends, and parents and now want to experience it with the opposite sex.
This is why they want more activities to be coed. If they are able to interact more often with the opposite sex, it seems more likely they will be accepted by them. Most high school students have no real experience attracting the opposite sex. This is why boys in particular try various things to get a females attention. Of course the girls oblige, which just encourages more of the same.
In truth both sexes want to be identified as important by the opposite sex. They just go about it in different ways. It’s pretty much left up to trial and error. This is why I believe it’s important to help your teenager learn what true intimacy is and how to develop a healthy relationship with the opposite sex (and unlike popular American culture, sex is not the same as intimacy). So make sure they understand the difference.
Age of skepticism
At some point every high school student will begin to break away from dependence on adults, and place it on their peer group. This is why they often judge according to the ideas of the those they identify with most. As a group, they will often live dangerously and take unnecessary chances, as they search for excitement and thrills. Through these things they begin to believe they are indestructible, and oftentimes it seems to be true.
Adults often get frustrated because it seems young people are not really listening. They don’t seem to care about anything. However don’t be deceived, they may not be listening with their ears, but they are listening to our actions.
They put a lot of emphasis on body language, and we need to be careful about what we say and how we say it. So if your actions don’t align with your talking, they will react. I believe that many times this is why they become disillusioned, cynical, full of questions, and untrusting towards authority. If they can’t trust adults to be honest with them, who can they trust?
Age of ever-increasing responsibilities
I have found that this is often the hardest. There are so many things vying for their attention. Friends, family, homework, tests, teachers, coaches, jobs, social media, work, home life, churches, siblings and parents all trying to get them to commit to something. At some point they may try to appease them all, and thus crash under the responsibilities of it all. Remember we need to be there when they crash, because they will need our help.
Age of attention
It’s natural to think that children need more attention and direction than teenagers. However I believe it’s during high school that they need the most attention. During these years they are making important decisions – building work habits, choosing colleges and careers, establishing relations with the opposite sex, setting up their own eating habits etc.
These years are very important and will have a strong influence on how they continue into adulthood.
So if you are a parent of a high school student, this is not the time to let them flounder on their own. If you won’t help them, there are many who will, and they won’t have the same interests as you.
Help! My child’s in high school conclusion.
This age is a transformational time. It’s when you have the most influence on your children. Don’t waste it. When it’s over, they will most likely move on, with or without you.