Dear Parents of High School Seniors,
This is such a bittersweet year, full of so many “lasts” with your almost full-grown child.
So many feelings come in this last year of your teen being home. You want to make sure they know all the things before they go. And there’s the stress and strain of preparing them for their departure, which may include college applications or securing other future plans.
It can be challenging to guide and encourage them through the exhaustive process of making those difficult decisions about their future and every detail that involves. There can be a lot of anxiety and stress, but also a lot of push-and-pull as your kid gets ready to fly the nest.
Senior year is a lot for both your teen and the parents
The year will be filled with many significant events where again and again you will find yourself reduced to an emotional mess standing in a puddle of tears. Whether it’s those senior pics where your child looks so grown up or scanning baby pics for their final yearbook, both will leave you wondering how the time went so fast.
Or it’s watching them shine on their “Senior Night” for whatever extracurricular activity they love, where they are highlighted and celebrated for all their accomplishments and future plans. And then there’s the last homecoming dance and prom and so many other senior year occasions during graduation season that will fill you up with joy and pride and sadness.
It’s even getting them through bouts of “senioritis” because they are so ready to get to the next stage of their life.
But somehow, in the middle of all of this, you also have to guide them through the daunting undertaking of exploring all their future options, helping them understand there is never only one right choice or only one path that brings success.
Helping them figure out what is best for them can be an ordeal, full of hard talks and even harder decisions. This is then followed by the aching angst of anticipation that fills the air while waiting to hear back from colleges or jobs, internships, or armed forces, hoping above all hope that the right path comes.
Senior year is about beginnings and ends
All the events will only serve to constantly remind you of their impending departure.
You will try to grasp for every second you can savor with them, but your senior will have other plans. They will be SO BUSY with all the things that you will long for a quick hug from them.
Their schedule will be filled with so many senior events that you will wonder if you’ll ever see them again. You will start to have more deep meaningful conversations about their futures, you may have pushback about curfew and routines now that they are adult-ish, and you will feel a shift.
That’s how this parenting process goes. It’s the natural order of things. It’s your kid growing up and learning to manage life independently.
But it is SO HARD when you desperately want to make the most of these moments you have left with them.
So, here are a few pieces of advice I have for parents of seniors during this last year with your teen at home:
Support them in everything they do, and love them while they’re still in front of you.
You might want more time with them and feel like you are not their priority, which is probably true.
And that’s a good thing, no matter how much it hurts. Don’t take it personally, even though it sure feels that way. Take it as a sign that your child is building confidence and courage to need you less, which is ultimately our goal, right? Right. So, meet them where they are and support them in any way you can with whatever is important to them.
This might mean being understanding when they are stressed waiting for an acceptance letter or applying for scholarships or studying for exams. It might mean changing some boundaries and rules to account for their new maturity. And it might mean holding your tongue as they explore all their options about their future.
When they are available, embrace those moments you have together.
Use any time you get with them wisely: fill it with your love and assurance and guidance in the things that matter most to them.
Let them take the lead, meaning you must listen and not take the conversation over. You will be tempted to impart every.single.thing. you possibly can while you have this fleeting moment with them, but you’ve done your job already. Now is the time to soak them all in.
While your senior is still in front of you, don’t waste time on things that won’t matter a year from now.
You’ll panic with the need to show them how to change a tire, or fill out medical forms, or manage their schedule better. You’ll start to obsess about them cleaning the toilet and making spaghetti sauce because you’ve slacked on that and a few other things that must be learned NOW.
The list will feel endless.
Ask yourself, is this really how you want to spend the time you have left with your child?
Instead of only focusing on life skills, use every minute you can to strengthen your bond and fill them full with your unconditional love.
They will draw from that bond, and they will depend on it more than ever when they’re gone. They might not need you for caretaking things anymore, but THIS is what they’ll need most.
And when it comes down to parenting your child through the years, there’s no greater gift than that.
Feed your relationship and your hearts
Throughout this last year, nourish the connection you have with your senior. Put it above anything else you feel compelled to do while you still have time.
The foundation you build now will be strong enough to stretch through the miles between you when they’re gone. They will find you when they need a safe place to fall apart, they will reach out to you when they need to know somebody cares, they will depend on you to always be there, ready and willing to listen to what they have to say and help them with anything along the way.
It’s in this love where they will find your guidance and encouragement through all the millions of ways they’ll need those things.
And most of all, your love will empower them with the strength, confidence, and wisdom to keep following each path leading to their future, one exciting and scary step at a time.
This is a contributed post by Christine Carter. She writes at TheMomCafe.com, where she hopes to encourage mothers everywhere through her humor, inspiration, and faith. Her work is published on several various online publications and she is the author of “Help and Hope While You’re Healing: A woman’s guide toward wellness while recovering from injury, surgery, or illness.” and “Follow Jesus: A Christian Teen’s Guide to Navigating the Online World”. Both sold on Amazon.