HIGH SCHOOL

You may notice former best friends fading and new ones appearing, it’s okay.
The average high school has 750 teenagers, 250 dating couples, and more than 50 options for extracurricular activities. With so many opportunities to connect, it’s no wonder teenagers in this phase abandon the general quest for popularity and search for acceptance in more specialized groups. 
These 52 weeks also bring a new academic reality. The demand for personal responsibility increases and teens are held to more rigorous standards. For some, this is when grades begin to count towards admission to the exclusive and elusive college of their dreams. Even if a selective college isn’t obviously in the cards, grades still count. No matter what, for every ninth grader, grades count. 
This is a year of identifying talents and abilities. Freshmen gravitate to where they are most accepted. By the end of this year, your teenager will likely have a more stable sense of who they are than they have for the past three years. Frankly, they may be a little frustrated that you haven’t known who they were all along. (Why not? It’s been so obvious.) Listen carefully. Pay attention. Stalk them openly. The greatest thing you can do in this phase is to know them and know where they are finding acceptance. Perhaps nothing will affect the trajectory of the next four years more.

208
weeks till
graduation

This phase marks the year of independence.
Sweet Sixteen means sweet freedom. Whether this is getting a driver’s license or having friends who have one, there is a deliverance from authority when a teenager no longer depends on Mom or Dad for transportation. Just how much freedom they should have, and just how much freedom their peers have, you will never really know. If you ask them, no other adult on the planet limits the activities as much as you. 
Sophomore year is a blend of fresh skepticism and new discoveries. With newfound freedom comes greater life experience. Whatever a tenth grader believed in theory has now been tested. That really life-shattering bad thing you warned them about? They know someone who survived it. The standards you held up for them in the past? They realize you haven’t always lived by them. Get ready for them to challenge the process. 
The days of “Because I Said So” are far behind you. A sophomore still needs boundaries, but unless the boundaries make sense in light of their personal (and changing) beliefs, they won’t stay within it. You’re probably the same way. Unlike you, however, a sophomore doesn’t have your past experience or your future orientation. So when you “debate” (loudly) boundaries with a sophomore, remember to stay in the present. They aren’t challenging what you both want ten years from now, they just need you to understand what they need right now.

156
weeks till
graduation

Juniors are more ready than ever to be who they really are.
The rapid influx of hormones has regulated, the flight for peer acceptance has subsided, and the intensity of conflict over independence…well, they’ve worn you down. This confidence is enough to let you relax emotionally, and allow yourself to be amazed at all they can accomplish. 
“Accomplish” is the best word to describe the activity in this phase. Some may begin an after-school job. Many juniors focus on building a college resume by adding a growing number of AP courses, an internship, volunteer activities, extracurricular leadership roles and SAT prep. For a select few, it’s when recruitment for college sports begins. Whether your teen is caught up in the race to win or simply trying to survive, junior year easily has the highest pressure. 
Don’t be surprised if it’s hard to keep up. “Where are you going?” “Who are you going with?” “When will you be back?” “You’ve been dating for how long?” Your relationship may begin to feel a little one-sided. It’s okay. They don’t expect you to keep up. What they really want is for you to trust them. After all, they will be out of the house soon and you will have to anyway. Let this be a practice year for both of you. Help them prove the ways they can be trusted, choose your battles wisely and parent them in the areas that seem to be most challenging for them personally. 

104
weeks till
graduation

The countdown clock is counting down…to the end.
There may seem to be an urgency to these last 52 weeks. As a senior takes on more responsibility, they will also lean in relationally in a different way. They will discover (especially late in the year) that they need adults in their world a little bit more than they thought. All of a sudden the decisions have very high stakes. Like, “Will you try to date him long-distance?” And there’s nothing like having “last time” moments to bring out a little sentimentality. 
The greatest question of this phase for everyone is, “What’s Next?” In fact,  it can drive you both a little crazy. At times it can feel like walking on a moving sidewalk that’s about to end with no real defined floor to walk onto. Just remember to focus on “next: few months” more than “next: rest-of-your-life.” They may be legally adults, but they aren’t adults really. Your job hasn’t ended. Even the most accomplished seniors will take a few years (and maybe some counseling) to figure this adult thing out.

52
weeks till
graduation

52
weeks till
graduation