Dear Parents of Seniors,
This is such a bittersweet year, full of so many “lasts” with your almost full-grown child. There are so many feelings that come in this last year of your teen being home. You want to make sure they know all. the. things. and you want to teach them all. the. skills. before they go. And there’s the stress and strain of preparing them for their departure, as you guide them and encourage them through the exhaustive process of making those difficult decisions about their future and every detail that involves.
It’s a LOT.
The year will be filled with many big 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 baby looks so grown up or scanning baby pics for their final yearbook, both leaving you wondering how the time went so fast. Or is 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 homecoming and prom and so many other senior year occasions that will fill you up with joy and pride and sadness.
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. 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 acceptance letter comes.
All of this will only serve to constantly remind you of their impending departure
You will be trying to grasp for every second you can savor with them, but your senior will have other plans. They will be SO BUSY with allthethings. Their schedule will be filled with work and friends and school, along with their extracurricular activities and social events. You’re going to begin to wonder if you’ll ever see them again.
That’s how this parenting process goes. It’s the natural order of things. It’s your kid growing up and learning how to manage life on their own. But it is SO HARD when you desperately want to make the most of these moments you have left with them at home.
So, here’s the best advice I have for you 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 any way you can with whatever is important to them.
When they are available, embrace those moments you have together.
Use that time wisely– fill it with your love and assurance and guidance in the things that matter most to them. Let them take the lead, which means you need to listen very carefully. You will be tempted to impart every.single.thing. you possibly can while you have this fleeting moment with them.
But 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 with much more efficiency than before 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?
No, it’s not! 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 other various 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.
Because in the end, nothing is more important than your relationship. Nothing.
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, and 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.