Whether your high school senior is getting ready for college, taking a gap year or hoping to join the workforce, this is a year of huge change for both of you.
You are saying goodbye to routines of the past decades, not to mention a concrete/clear sense of your role as a parent. At the same time, most parents understand that a shift in their relationship with their child is required and critical. So it’s ironic that in the midst of all this stress, emotion and nostalgia, we are required to do some of our best and most important parenting.
Use this time to help them cement the management skills that will serve them throughout their lives.
This is a time of intense stress for both parents and children. It’s a good time to help your child understand the way they react to stress, how to recognize it before it gets out of control and practice ways to keep it from becoming all-consuming. There’s a steep learning curve ahead, and the more prepared they are to deal with uncertainty and disappointment; the more successful they will be in managing the transition. Figure out and help your teen practice the coping mechanisms that work best for them, so that they become second nature.
Download a yoga app and practice mindfulness together. Help them learn to prioritize, so that everything on their plate – which will be overflowing within moments of freshman orientation – doesn’t feel equally important and overwhelming. There are some great stress management tools from the American Academy of Pediatrics here.
Diving deeper into the causes of stress is the ability to successfully manage time. Until now, your child’s schedule was probably mostly in your control – finding enough time for homework, meals, after school activities and sleep – you were able to manage this balancing act on behalf of your child. No more. One of the earliest and most painful lessons your child will learn once they are out from under your roof is that they can’t do everything. If they stay up all night talking with their friends, or use a Saturday before a test playing ultimate Frisbee, the resulting stress will take a profound toll.
Get them into the habit of scheduling their time around priorities and big tasks, breaking them into smaller ones. Help them learn to be organized so they aren’t frantically looking for a calculator on their way out the door to a calculus test. Research time management apps like 30/30 or try techniques like the Pomodoro method to help them understand how long different tasks take and plan accordingly.
Whether your child’s next step is fully funded or they are expected to cover some or all of the costs, kids should be learning how to wisely spend and save. Instead of purchasing everything for them in the last months or year of living at home, give them a budget and ask them to buy their own toiletries and clothing, pay for their own entertainment. Then hold firm in declining requests for more.
Some useful apps for teaching teens and young adults about personal finance can be found here.
No matter where your child goes after high school, there will be people with whom she doesn’t see eye to eye. This can be irritating, in the case of a new roommate, or downright detrimental, as in the case of a professor or supervisor. Without the necessary skill set, they can land in tough situations. Teach your child that they can’t wish a problem away, and that they need to deal with it as quickly as possible after it arises. Teach them critical listening skills, as well as different ways to put their own views forward confidently and calmly. Negotiating skills are critical and will serve them well in the long term. Finally, teach them how to deliver a genuine apology. Scholastic has some good conflict resolution guidance here.
Let them take the lead
We start out as parents making all the decisions for our children. As they get older, we slowly cede control of the smaller decisions, letting them pick their own outfits, deciding which sports and afterschool activities to pursue, often steering them toward the “right” decisions. Now it’s time to step back into the supporter role. Facilitate research, help with college visits, ask “what do you think?”, encourage critical thinking and informed decision making, and then get out of the way.
This may be the hardest thing we do as parents, but you’ve been preparing for it for decades – and it’s what they need most from you.