Junior High Youngster


To attempt to describe the average twelve- to fourteen-year-old is a complex and difficult undertaking. This is an age of rapid and profound growth. Physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual developments are all taking place in these young teens. While peers are a very strong influence at this age, adults continue to be important in the lives of young teens. This is particularly true when they are troubled, fearful, or unsure of situations in which they find themselves. Because twelve- to fourteen-year-olds are more able to think abstractly than in previous years, they now have the capacity for critical reflection on their experiences and how they can find God in their lives. Faith traditions and moral guidance can offer this age group the structure and security they need during this turbulent time.



  • Young teens are entering or about to enter puberty.
  • Physical growth can vary greatly from child to child.
  • Change can seem to happen overnight.



  • Abstract reasoning is more developed.
  • Capacity for critical reflection is developing.
  • Attention span has increased.
  • There is great diversity of ability in this age group as new skills develop.



  • Peer influence is very strong.
  • Respect for parents and other adults is still retained.
  • It is very important that young teens are accepted for the unique persons they are.



Young Teens:

  • have increased conscience formation.
  • seek freedom, but still need structure.
  • challenge and question beliefs and norms of the community.
  • are able to be more reflective of themselves and their experiences.
  • place importance on faith tradition as an anchor and support when everything else is in flux.
  • need their questions welcomed and need to be encouraged in their self-expression.



Junior high young people are at a critical time in their development. It is important that each young teen be given the opportunity to discover their own unique gifts and the personhood given to them by God. The traditions and beliefs of the Church can be an anchor in a world that is otherwise changing at a frightening rate of speed. Parents play an important role in the growth of the students as Catholic Christians. Parents can accept the challenging questions students will ask and respond in a positive and affirming manner.

We asked a group of junior high youngsters what they would like a parent to know about them. Here's what they said:

I Wish...
  • you would help me see my unique self.
  • you would let me ask questions that may make you feel a little uncomfortable.
  • you would understand that I sometimes challenge authority because I have to assert my own ideas and try them out.
  • you would be there to talk to when I need a trusted adult.
  • you would give me opportunities to talk about my friendships and myself.
  • you would make me feel important and that my ideas matter.
  • you would give me time to have fun with my peers.