Parents Guide to Surviving their Child’s Senior Year of High School

Your child’s senior year of high school is bittersweet. It will culminate in an incredible milestone and mark the beginning of many new experiences. However, it is a year of many lasts as the teen’s transition into young adults.

The senior year of high school may take parents through a whirlwind of emotions- from excitement to sadness to dread to joy. Many parents struggle with how to deal with their child’s senior year

What are Tips to Surviving Your Child’s Senior Year of High School?

Do New Things that Have Nothing to do With Parenting

Parents spend a lot of time participating in activities that are child-centered.  You must now prepare for a ‘new’ normal and get ready for your child’s vacant chair at the dinner table as well as their empty bedroom. Rediscover your life as an individual, not just as a parent. Parenthood is obviously a life’s journey, but a parent can rediscover fun activities that have nothing to do with parenthood. Join a new group and engage in activities that you once enjoyed.

Make Senior Year a Dry Run for College

Part of being at peace with your child leaving home is knowing that they will be fine and they will survive leaving home. Helping them become competent as young adults will enable them to adjust to life in college much easier.  Help your children learn responsibility by refraining from doing everything for them:

  • Do not feel obligated to deliver forgotten items left behind at home. Resist the urge to rush a paper or homework that has been forgotten to school. Stop making daily breakfast and packing lunch for them
  • Allow the alarm clock to wake them up (rather than your voice and reminders to get out of bed)
  • Let them fill out their paper work to the best of their ability before you review it
  • Let them take care of their clothes after teaching them how to properly do their own laundry
  • Stop being over-involved in their academics. Let them handle their problems with their teachers or coaches

The college application process is not your responsibility. Being overly involved in the admission process will undermine your child’s goals and growth. Allowing them to take the lead will enforce the idea that they are mature and will help them develop resilience and self-confidence.  Remember; it is not what you do for your children. But what you have taught them to do for themselves that will make them successful adults.

Allow Extra Freedom

Many seniors will either move away to college or into their own houses or apartments nearby. To help with the transition to freedom, decrease the shock of transition by allowing some extra freedom during their senior year. Lift a lot of the restrictions and give your child an opportunity to self-regulate so that they do not implode with all the freedom that college brings.

It will be a whole year before the child is on their own. So, it does not have to be 100% hands off right away. Make it a gradual process.

  • Start by removing enforced bed time
  • A little more latitude where electronics are concerned

The key to successful transition is letting your children go before they are gone. Once they are on the downslope of senior year, let them take some victory laps, a well-deserved privilege of senior year.

Set Mutual Expectations

By talking with your senior about graduation celebrations, activities and plans for post-high school, you will decrease stress on your senior and anxiety on yourself. If attending college is the goal, gather as much information as possible about schools and careers that interest your senior.  Allow your senior the final say on most choices of what colleges to apply to but ask probing questions and remind them of your basic expectations. Also, discuss the financial implications of joining certain schools; for instance, in state versus out of state. You want your child to be happy, but you do not want them to go into debt.

Treat Them Like Young Adults Now

Sit down with your senior and have important discussions:

  • How marvelous it was to find yourself a parent.
  • What kind of mother/father / spouse you hope they will one day be
  • Tell about your failings and how you recovered
  • Tell them secrets, things in your family that they might not know.

This will allow them to know they are now trusted near adults, worthy of sharing family secrets. Talk to them like the adult they will soon be; it will fill them with the confidence to get there.

Above all else, enjoy the senior year. Make most of this special period in your child’s life. Your child will be out of the house before you know it. Find relief in being present in this amazing season of their life. The secret to surviving your child’s senior year is looking forward to the future through the lens of their future, not backward through the lens of your past. So, get a grip on your mourning and be excited about how amazing this new phase of life is going to be for your senior. Fill yourself with visions of your child thriving in college and growing into a wonderful adult that you cannot wait to get to know better.

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