If your child recently graduated from high school, you are most likely feeling proud, a mixture of emotions, and wondering how to parent in this new season. A parenting shift has taken place and you need tips for life after high school.
Your child’s senior year was filled with school activities, creating memories, and making plans for next steps. But somehow, while filling out college applications or looking into job opportunities, you may not have prepared for this stage of parenting.
Whether your new graduate is going to work, college, vocational school, the military, or heading into the mission field, you are entering a new parent/child stage. I remember this time well and want to offer you some suggestions. It’s possible to not just survive this season of parenting, but to thrive!
Tips to THRIVE as the parent of a high school graduate and beyond:
Take the time to pray
- When my daughters went to college, I asked how I could pray for them each week in their Monday email. What a privilege to surround our children in prayer! A bonus came out of this question. While they shared their concerns, I was able to find out details of their new life. I heard names of new friends and places; this allowed me to connect with them without asking too many probing questions.
Help your child prepare for their next steps
- Sit down and show them how to create a budget and begin handling their finances. Talk about time management and how to schedule work, classes, friends, studying and the other activities that will fill your child’s life. Ask if they have any concerns or fears? Together, brainstorm how to solve these issues. Prayerfully consider your role as you continue to guide and coach your child into adulthood.
Revisit rules and expectations
- Decide if any rules or guidelines need to change as you and your child transition from high school to beyond. Then sit down together and go over curfews, having friends to the house, chores, use of the car, and other family rules. Maybe you have been paying for your child’s cell phone or car insurance and it’s time to transfer that payment to them? Be honest and specific. Write things down so the expectations are clear. Allow your child to share their ideas as you work out new guidelines. Don’t dread or avoid talking about these issues. Remember, you are preparing your child to be a responsible adult.
Identify ways to communicate and stayed connected
- Don’t expect a daily phone call; your son or daughter will be busy navigating this new season. I sent an email to my daughters each morning while they were away at college with family updates and news. They had a weekly phone date with their Dad. Together come up with a plan that allows you to stay connected.
Value your child and encourage them
- Don’t think that because your child is getting older and probably taller they don’t need their biggest fan and cheerleader. Send cards telling them they are fabulous and you believe in them. If they’re still living at home, leave a note on their pillow or taped to the bathroom mirror saying, “I love you!” Even if they act like they don’t appreciate these comments and gestures, deep down they treasure your encouragement.
- Your child may have to work on Christmas Eve or their college break doesn’t fall during your vacation time this year. This can be difficult for parents when “things aren’t as they’ve always been.” I personally had to grieve and process this change – I loved spending time with my daughters! But, after my 5-minute pity party, I decided to embrace these changes and make it work. One year we had a lovely Easter lunch with my daughter who was out-of-state at college. Another year we planned a mini vacation to a city nearby to accommodate my daughter’s work schedule. Be creative and look at things differently. Life goes on after your child graduates from high school; learn to roll with the changes!
Take a few minutes (or longer) and reflect on all the activities, carpools, late night chats, and homework sessions that filled your life these past 18 years. List all the ways you are grateful for a home filled with laughter, piles of laundry, and lots of pizza! Then pray and decide how to best guide your teenager into their adult years. You are never finished as a parent, but each new stage will look different…enjoy!