The family’s flown in, pomp and circumstance is blaring through the speakers and you’ve got the camera ready to go—it’s hard to believe, but your child is about to cross the stage at their high school graduation. Time sure does fly. And, while it’s a time of celebration, you, as a parent, need to be prepared for what’s to come when the party’s over—the next phase of your child’s life.
Sure, by the end of the school year many students have already finalized their plans for the immediate future, but that’s definitely not the case for everyone. Students today are faced with a myriad of options after they leave high school. Up until this point it has been so simple—pass this grade, enjoy summer vacation, repeat—but now the road ahead is unclear and almost completely up to them. They can opt to join the military, attend a traditional university or even apply for a job if they want, not to mention a slew of other options, so there’s a chance they might be a bit overwhelmed.
So what’s a parent to do if their child falls into the uncertain category? While there is no specific manual on how to properly help your child through this time of ambiguity, I can offer some tips on how to make the transition a smooth and easy one. Read on for some insight into what you should be doing.
Don’t Make Money or Distance an Issue
During this time, odds are your son or daughter has a million thoughts racing through his or her mind. So, the last thing they need is to worry about things like financial burdens and distance restraints. Sure, these are things they need to consider as they take this next step, but they don’t need your constant nagging and reminding about them, especially in the initial phases of the process.
This is essentially their first attempt at adulthood, so let them do this on their own. They are at a point in their lives where they have the freedom to really attempt anything, and they don’t need your negativity limiting their options. Let them research schools and browse programs, and when it looks like they have narrowed it down to one or two possibilities, delicately broach the subject. Odds are they will come to you for your input anyway, but if you are shoving your two cents down their throat they will definitely shut you down—something you may have experienced in prior situations.
So, for the time being, bite your tongue when you want to remind them how expensive out of state schools can be. Fight the urge to express how much you’ll miss them if they choose to study abroad for a year. I promise you’ll get the opportunity to speak your peace, but now is definitely not the time.
Don’t Impose Your Own Hopes and Desires
Similar to the first tip, this one stresses the importance of silencing your own personal bias and judgment when it comes to your child’s future. So you want them to be a world-renowned surgeon, even though they can’t stand the sight of blood—it’s probably not going to happen. Remember that this is YOUR CHILD’S life, not yours. Sure, by association their actions will affect your collective future, but whatever route they choose should be their choice alone. After all, they will be the ones living their lives, not you, so it’s important that they like what they’re doing. If you force a specific career, school or whatever on them and they end up hating it, you run the risk of having them resent you for the rest of their lives—not sure that’s something you want hanging over your head.
Your children are not puppets for you to steer and manipulate whatever which way you choose. They are people with their own hopes, fears, dreams and ambitions, and rather than trying to live vicariously through them, nurture and encourage their own, unique desires. I promise you will both be happier. Which brings me to my next point.
No matter what your child decides they think is right for them, be supportive. If they think a trade school is right for them as opposed to a traditional college, remind them that that’s OK and you back them 100%. If they want to study an obscure topic you don’t know much about, encourage them to. Sure, there’s a chance whatever they decide won’t work out and they could potentially fail, but at least they had the drive and initiative to try in the first place. Isn’t life all about learning from our mistakes, anyways?
Look at it this way, you can either be the parent of a young adult who is on the cusp of something great but just needs to invest a little more time and effort, or you can be the parent of a young adult who was too scared to try and chose a “safe”, “normal” option out of fear. I personally would prefer the former, because it would mean that I have instilled enough self-confidence and bravery in them over the years that they now have the courage to chase their dreams. I can’t think of a better way to measure my success as a guardian. Parental support is a powerful thing and should by no means be underestimated…so use it wisely.
So regardless of the route your child chooses, whether it be to go to school, go to work or even take a year off, remember these tips. They can only help strengthen the bond you and your offspring share and will help your relationship flourish.