It’s a new year, not only for students, but also for parents. A good time to turn over a new leaf. Here’s what those of us who are guidance counselors are hoping parents will do this year:
1. Provide appropriate support
Support your high school student and check in with frequently. If you are perceived as a nag, that’s too bad.
Ask how things are going and help with navigating any tricky conversations your child may have to have with adults. This is good practice for the future. Encourage your child to reach out to teachers who seem to be a problem. Role play the conversation and have the student practice what to say. Then, let your child approach the teacher. The last step would be for you to contact a school official. Letting your student try to deal with it first encourages great coping skills for college and the future.
2. Teach them to prioritize
If you are worried about your student’s grades or the grades drop, use it as a good teaching moment about how to prioritize. Your student can watch the show, play the game, talk on the phone, go to the movies, etc. once a goal is met. You decide on that goal. The goals may be long-term or short-term depending on the circumstance. Get a calendar to share with your student. Mark important dates, deadlines and events so that you all know what’s coming up and you can help with time management - yours and your student’s!
3. Be involved and attend meetings
Go to the counseling meetings to learn about the college application process at your child’s school. Many of your questions are likely to be the most common ones and counselors make sure to address these at these group meetings. If you do not or can not attend the meeting, do not ask the counselor to give you a private session covering all the material again. Instead, ask for access to the presentation or notes to read on your own. If you require a private appointment, call ahead and ask when a counselor may have availability. If you have an individual meeting set up, be on time and prepared with your specific questions.
4. Keep an open mind and encourage new or sustained interests
Have an open mind about your child’s future. Children may come up with 100 ideas about what they are dying to be when they “grow up” but will likely choose something entirely different. They may even pick a college because of the great underwater archeology program and then change to majoring in business!
Don’t be frustrated. Remember that most people these days have many careers during their lifetimes. It is most essential for students to pick something they want to study that they are passionate about and that provides skills to be successful in any career. Encourage teenagers to try new things and get involved in something they are passionate about in school or outside of school. Not only does this “look good” on a college application, but it legitimately makes them more interesting and involved people. It also teaches them how to find communities of like-minded people, an essential skill for having a smooth transition to college.
5. Don’t give them a fish; teach them how to fish
Your high school student will soon be going off to college whether you like it or not. Isn’t that the goal? One measure of success as a parent is if you have raised a self-sufficient, independent, aware, and interesting adult! Make children do their own laundry and cook a meal every once in a while. This is good practice for college and for life in general. Remember you want to teach them to be self-sufficient and well-adjusted young adults.