Starting high school is a time of excitement and worry. It is a time of increased expectations. For some it means pressure to get good grades, test scores, and plan for college. For some it means a bigger school, new people, and increased social expectations. For all, it means change.
One way to think about adolescent development is in terms of developmental tasks. A term originally coined by Conger, developmental tasks are age appropriate, social expectations required to make the transition from childhood to adulthood. Developmental tasks vary from culture to culture and from time to time but some of them are universal. They include: achieving independence from parents, adjusting to sexual maturation, maintaining cooperative relationships with peers, selecting and preparing for a vocation, and developing a sense of identity. When you stop to think about it, there is more rapid physical and psychological change taking place during adolescence than at any other stage in life.
Extracurricular activities are the key to a smooth high school transition and an avenue to increased independence. Some sports, like water polo, start the summer before high school. These teens start high school and already have a friendship circle and a sport. Community service activities, like Habitat for Humanity, teach good values and new skills. Teens learn to build houses, swing a hammer, and help others. This is very gratifying. The Sierra Club gives teens the chance to get outside, to hike, explore nature, and protect the environment. Clubs offer leadership roles, adult contacts, and new skills. They provide older students as role models and build confidence. Participation looks good on college applications. Music, photography and art stimulate creativity and provide lifelong hobbies.