Our son will be entering the 11th grade next year and I’m not sure he is ready. Most of the kids I see at his school seem to act a lot more mature than he does. Is this something I should be worried about?
Maturity has a wide range in age. The 11th grade could be your son’s year. You may be surprised at how much he changes over the next few months — especially with some help from you along the way.
Nothing works on teen maturity like real responsibility. The type of responsibility can vary, but it does need to be meaningful and require your teen to make some serious choices in behavior.
One thing to do is to have him get a summer job. Because you want to help your son mature, the best kind of summer job would put him with adults and others who are more mature than he is. The most common jobs for teens, such as fast food service or cashier at the mall, are probably not the best choices. Too often the fast food and mall culture is not a mature environment. Working in an office as an assistant, or helping adults work with younger children may be better job choices.
If a paying job is not available in the area he needs, look into volunteer work. Developing maturity does not need a paycheck. Tutoring in summer school, working with parks or summer camp programs may serve the same purpose. In the ideal situation he would get some training from adults as part of the job.
Another way to help guide him toward more mature behavior is to set some goals. Over the summer ask him about his post high school plans. He really should have some ideas of what he wants to do by now. Talk to him about colleges, careers and the college entrance exams he may need to take in his junior year. Help him figure out his classes for the next two years to see that he is taking the courses he needs.
Maturity can be scary for some teens. The responsibilities are not always welcome. Tying the new responsibilities to new freedoms may help too. Extend curfews a bit. Comment when you see him make thoughtful choices and perform difficult tasks. He may also benefit from membership in extracurricular clubs or associations.
His junior year can be one of the most enjoyable of high school. He will be exploring new social and academic areas, but still have another whole year before facing the big graduation finale. If he still worries you when school starts in the fall, talk to a school counselor. In the meantime, you may want to check out the Development Tracker for Eleventh Grade to get even more insight into the junior year.