Youth Development by Age

Even after children have learned to walk and talk there are still many developmental milestones to reach. As you and your Little are building trust and rapport it can be helpful to know what your Little needs to best express themselves and feel safe to practice Positive Youth Development (PYD) skills in your match.

Helpful links and tools:

If you have additional questions about age-appropriate development or more specific questions about your Little’s needs, please contact your Match Support Coordinator or look below at the various age ranges for more information.

7-9 years  |  10-12 years  |  13-15 years  |  15-18 years  |  Post HS/Adulthood

7-9 years 

Youth in this age range: 

  • Crave stability
  • Are naturally curious and inquisitive
  • Interested in trying new things but, may be frustrated when skills do not come easily
  • Can act “bored” when things are hard
  • Are becoming more aware of others’ perceptions, especially as relates to themselves, but are still working on social competence
  • Are still learning emotional competence and may not have the words to describe how they are feeling.
  • Try to express emotions with words, but may still resort to other means to share difficult emotions
  • Strive to behave well, but aren’t as attentive to directions

Youth in the age range need: 

  • Boundaries and limits to feel safe
  • Expectations established ahead of time and gentle reminders to stay on track
  • Consistency and predictability- knowing what will come next
  • Patience when redirecting and may respond well to humor and jokes as a means of redirection.
  • Encouragement to practice talking about emotions and examples of how this is done.
  • May need conversation starters and probing to get more in-depth informationThe CDC has a comprehensive developmental milestones list  if you would like more information.  Remember that these are widely held expectations, but all children develop at their own pace.  

    10-12 years

    Youth in this age range: 

  • Begin to think more logically
  • Are beginning to develop their own identity and character
  • Are learning how to be themselves, separate from peers and family
  • Can seem less interested or engaged
  • Can be more self-conscious and aware of what others think
  • Are affectionate, silly and curious, but are working on social competence and can appear rude or argumentative
  • Are learning how to share ideas
  • Are more skilled at emotional competence but need support to label emotions
    *Peer pressure and exposure to high-risk behaviors begins closer to 12
  • Onset of puberty is likely

Youth in the age range need: 

  • Need boundaries and limits set in a sensitive way- establishing expectations in advance but will still need reminders
  • Safe adults to support practicing social skills and sharing ideas
  • A place where who they are is celebrated as they explore their identity
  • A place to talk, judgement free, especially about peer issues
  • This is a good time to revisit BBBSEM’s Secrets and Confidences safety guidelines as you and your Little build trustThe CDC has a comprehensive developmental milestones list  if you would like more information.  Remember that these are widely held expectations, but all children develop at their own pace.

 13-15 years 

Youth in this age range: 

  • Are experiencing physical changes/ puberty
  • May need patience and support with personal hygiene and body image
  • Can appear moody and impulsive
  • Are at higher risk for exposure to and possibly exploration of high-risk behaviors
  • Are working on confidence and character, trusting their own voice and decisions.
  • Are working on building autonomy from their families but also during school and with peers
  • Are working on social competence, beginning to develop their own communication style and take ownership of their relationships.
  • Have the ability to think logically and reason, but are still not adept at emotional literacy
  • Are still curious, naturally setting goals, trying to identify strengths and weaknesses

Youth in the age range need: 

  • Limits and boundaries set in a collaborative way- asking for input and sharing what is not negotiable (safety.)
  • Safe spaces to share their ideas and emotions
  • Patience and coaching as they develop communication skills
  • Support to focus on strengths and identify the skills they might need to achieve their goals
  • Safe spaces to talk about future goals without pressure- offering suggestions and ideas instead of directing

The CDC has a comprehensive developmental milestones list  if you would like more information.  Remember that these are widely held expectations, but all children develop at their own pace. 

 15-18 years

Youth in this age range: 

  • Most have completed puberty
  • Are at greater risk for mental health challenges and engaging in high-risk behavior
  • Have more interest in relationships and sexuality
  • Have a deeper capacity for caring and sharing emotionally in a relationship
  • Are more autonomous and spend less time at home and with their family
  • May appear to be withdrawing or pulling away from adult relationships
  • Are become more socially competent in their own relationships and friendships are becoming more reciprocal, but are still working on developing their own communication style
  • Have a larger capacity for reasoning, but often need help considering other perspectives
  • May be becoming more curious about exploring career and/or college goals

Youth in this age range need: 

  • Limits and boundaries set in a collaborative way- asking for input and sharing what is not negotiable (safety.)
  • Patience and coaching as they develop communication skills
  • Support to focus on strengths and identify the skills they need to achieve their goals
  • Safe spaces to talk about future goals without pressure- offering suggestions and ideas instead of directing.
  • Need adults who listen without judgement and can validate their feelings
  • This is a good time to revisit BBBSEM’s Secrets and Confidences safety guidelines 

The CDC has a comprehensive developmental milestones list  if you would like more information.  Remember that these are widely held expectations, but all children develop at their own pace. 

Post HS/Adulthood   

Youth in this age range: 

  • Are fully developed physically by age 21
  • Are more confident and comfortable with their physical appearance
  • Are more in tune with physical skills and abilities
  • Are idealistic and goal oriented- but may be focused on big goals and ideas
  • Are developing a personal value structure and character, that is less influenced by others
  • Thinking about the future and planning next steps
  • Have begun to adjust relationships with older adults, family members and mentors to be more reciprocal.
  • Peer relationships become more meaningful, and they may begin to look for a partner that fits their ideals, and are more socially competent
  • Engages in critical thinking, are more able to take another’s perspective and adjust to multiple viewpoints.

Youth in this age range need: 

  • Space to talk about their ideals and values
  • Encouragement to develop goals and cultivate sharing of ideas
  • Flexibility as relationships change and Little becomes more autonomous
  • Guidance and advice shared in a more conversational manner- allowing for shared ideas and experiences
  • A safety net as they begin to branch out and take risks**Developmental Checklists are based on widely held expectations observed by teachers, childcare professionals and doctors for children in each age grouping. All children develop at their own pace and development is impacted by many things in our environment, if you have questions about where your Little is in their development, please talk with your Match Support Coordinator.**