As the teens age, one of the tricky parts for the PracticalDad is how much to involve himself in deciding what happens after high school. I want to raise the kids to be able to think and survive in the great wide world so while there may be times that they require some help, my intent isn’t to have them moving home for an indefinite period. I’m not Amish and I won’t be adding onto the house.
So the period around the end of high school is problematic. How do I measure my involvement in such a way as to ensure that they make the best decision that they can – whether I agree with it or not – versus just assuring that they make a decision at all? Parents can become frustrated with the kid if they perceive no activity or movement in the post-high school process and assume laziness. But it’s just as likely that their child is overwhelmed by the situation. For some, frankly, it akin to being a deer caught in the spotlight of adulthood.
For this PracticalDad, I have to remember that part o the tuition for whatever comes next will be on the back of my offspring via scholarships and work study. They absolutely must take responsibility for whatever decision is made. But most haven’t the experience or knowledge base to adequately evaluate the choices and opportunities. This means that the parents must take an active hand. So part of my job is to provide a framework in which they can make the best decision possible.
And how in God’s name does that happen? As usual, it isn’t a process into which you just jump one morning.
First, start early to help determine whether or not they even are the kind of person who would benefit from a college education. There is a growing and increasingly critical need for people with the skills to actually do and make things. In our future environment, those who can actually provide something of value will in all likelihoood prosper more than most. If this is the case, then there are absolutely valid alternatives in technical education and the guidance department can provide the resources to determine what they might be.
Second, ascertain what the Guidance Department offers to help your kid with career exploration and possible educational matches. When I was in high school, the Guidance Counselors were largely silent on career exploration and existed to help counsel the student if there were problems and to assist in the college selection process. I’ve been pleasantly surprised to find that they now plug incoming freshmen into software packages and websites to help identify their strengths, weaknesses, likes and dislikes. These packages then link the results to potential career paths across the employment spectrum.
Third, early in the high school years, determine what the general timeframe for specific milestones are. When are the college tests, i.e. the SAT and ACT? When should the student start considering what the school alternatives are out there? When should they be expected to have a realistic idea of what their college major might be? When should they start exploring schools and do those schools have programs that match the prospective major?
Then work with your kid to set up a schedule that satisfies all of these general timeframes. Some will take to it readily and others will struggle, but at least you have a sense of what has to happen and can adapt accordingly to help move things along.
And you might be pleasantly surprised at how they handle it.