For parents of high school seniors, the end of the school year is both an exciting and emotional time. As your child’s graduation approaches, you may feel pride, joy, and anxiety about what lies ahead. But, whether your child is headed to college, trade school, or into the workforce, you can do a few things as a parent to help them (and you) transition to adulthood.

1. Don’t talk at them; talk to them.

As adults, we are responsible for talking to our high school seniors and not talking at them. We must listen to their ideas and support their goals to guide them accurately. It is important not to judge their decisions but instead offer support and advice so they can make a well-informed choice of what is best for them. Guiding our high school seniors allows us to talk with them and help show them how making the right choices now may be beneficial further down the road. Doing this provides valuable information to help shape their future success.

2. Gap years are okay.

High school seniors should be encouraged to take gap years. While there is tremendous pressure for these students to rush into college, taking a break can provide a significant opportunity to reflect, recharge, and gain experience. Not to mention, gap years can help alleviate some of the stress related to college applications and make graduating seniors more receptive toward higher education. Whether going on travel adventures, taking time off to explore their interests, or volunteering with domestically and abroad organizations, gap years provide aspiring first-year college students with numerous outlets for growth. Thus, it should be considered supportive for high school graduates wanting to take a gap year before furthering their education – after all, they have worked hard enough.

3. Talk to your high school senior about adulthood and finances.

As adulthood and financial responsibilities come into play, you must encourage your high school senior to engage in honest conversations. It can be unsafe for a young person to navigate the complexities of adulthood, so they must have a supportive adult they can trust. In addition, by talking openly about maturity and finances, parents can provide helpful guidance and advice for their son or daughter as they continue their journey into adulthood. Ultimately, this dialogue will help high school seniors become better prepared for adulthood by providing them with an understanding of life’s many challenges and responsibilities.

4. Don’t let your high school senior be a couch potato after graduation.

Graduation marks the beginning of a new and exciting chapter in a high school senior’s life. Instead of succumbing to the temptation of being a ‘couch potato,’ encourage them to be active. They can search for job opportunities or volunteer at local organizations to gain valuable experience and skills. They must also take on some house chores to learn independence. Doing all these things can help keep your high school seniors engaged and motivated as they embark on their next adventure.

5. It’s okay to let go.

Graduating high school and moving away for college can be a profoundly stressful experience, especially for the parents of a high school senior. Leaving the nest can stir up anxiety, but there are helpful tips to relax and put stress at bay. An essential factor to consider when it comes to safety and security is planning: research the area by talking to old residents and familiarizing yourself with local law enforcement. Additionally, talk openly with your child about what they expect in terms of living arrangements; there’s nothing wrong with asking questions and being an involved parent. Once you have collected as much information as possible to put you at ease, relax and trust your child’s judgment—it’s perfectly okay to let go.

In conclusion, it is essential to remember that guiding and leading are two different things for parents of high school graduates. It’s okay to show them the ropes but don’t be overbearing. Support their need for a gap year if they choose to take one and use this opportunity to discuss the realities of adulthood and finances. Also, being a couch potato is not okay – require them to work if they decide to take a break. Lastly, while you may have anxiety about your high school graduate attending college out of state or making other decisions related to life after graduation- talk through alternatives that ensure safety and security; then, it is alright to let go eventually.

Allowing our children spread their wings is hard but necessary for them to grow into fully independent individuals. If you’re feeling overwhelmed navigating this terrain or want to connect with other moms in Central Florida, join Central Florida Women Connect.

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