3 Tips for Parents of High School Seniors - MetroFamily Magazine
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3 Tips for Parents of High School Seniors

by Christina Mushi-Brunt

Reading Time: 4 minutes 

“The days are long, but the years are short.” – Gretchen Rubin

Seventeen years ago that quote was repeated to me by several seasoned mamas. My husband and I had become first time parents. We were often feeling underprepared and overwhelmed with our new role. We were frequently sleep-deprived. Those days indeed did feel looooong.

So how is it that 17 years later, it feels like we zoomed through time at “warp speed”? Our oldest, the one who granted me the title “Mama,” began his final year of high school three weeks ago. As we help him prepare for the next stage of life, I still sometimes feel unprepared, overwhelmed and sleep-deprived. The things that made me feel this way before are different from those we face today. We are knee deep into the realm of planning for his future.

For those readers out there who are in these same waters, I offer some observations about this endeavor that I’ve made as I wade in there with you.

  1. Communicate. Talk to your teenager about their plans for the future. Are they completely over being a student and wanting to join the workforce after they graduate from high school? Are they passionate about or gifted in a particular vocation or trade? Is it their dream to be a college student-athlete? As parents, we often envision the future for our kids. A friend recently said, “I want my kid to make their own choices. But I want them to do what I want them to do.” Same, friend. Same. For us, we have communicated to our son that his future is his. And, as much as we’d like to make choices concerning his future for him, our role is to create the space and offer the support he needs to help him get there his way.
  2. Connect. Create or lean into connections with others who can help you help your high school senior as they are planning for their next steps. We have amazing friends who are alumni at universities that our senior has expressed an interest in submitting an application. Because of those connections, he has opportunities to get firsthand perspectives and personalized campus tours. Those alumni also send us information and tips about programs within the universities that would be beneficial for him. If the workforce or a gap year is their plan, help them connect with someone who can offer advice. If vocational training or trade school is the route your senior wants to take, help them connect with a friend or colleague who may be able to offer them some on-the-job training or an apprenticeship.
  3. Coach. Coaching is defined as “guiding or instructing someone through a particular skill to help them achieve their goals.” I like this definition because it reminds me that we, as parents, are essentially coaches for our kids’ lives. If a job is next for them, coach them on budgeting skills. If a vocational/trade school is next for them, coach them on preparing for the required entrance exam. While our son may view the quality of our coaching as questionable and unnecessary at times (he is a teenager after all), he knows that our motives and intent are rock solid: helping him achieve his goals. He’s never submitted applications to colleges. My husband and I have. He’s never searched for scholarships. We have. He’s never written a college essay and revised it a million times to get it just right. Been there, done that. So, we offer him guidance and instruction in those areas. As a parent, you have a built-in role as a coach for your senior. Keep coaching them until they can say: “put me in the game coach, I’m ready to play.

So, still today, the days are long: muddling through college and scholarship searches, scheduling tours, and writing and revising essays. But, oh, how acutely aware I am that this final year of high school is going to feel incredibly short. Cherish every bit of it, fellow Class of 2024 families!

Christina is a former professor turned freelance writer and public health research consultant. She and her family transplanted from Indiana to Oklahoma in 2015. They reside in the Moore community. Among the various hats Christina wears, her favorite is basketball/dance mom to her and her husband’s three middle & high-school-aged kids.

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