My fourth daughter is a senior in high school this year.
It’s different this time around, for sure. She picked up her schedule in a face mask. She doesn’t need to pray for a coveted senior parking spot, probably won’t get to sit in the senior section at the football games, and may not even take a class inside the school she will graduate from in May. However, there are some things that are the same, and those are the things I need to focus on during her last year of high school.
How to Make Mistakes
Part of success is learning from mistakes. How our kids learn from their mistakes is a powerful part of parenting. And, it assumes that we are letting our kids make those mistakes. Of course, I don’t want my girls to get hurt or develop dangerous habits, however, during their senior year, my husband and I try not to say “no.” Is it the best idea to go to Dutch or a friend’s house after dark when you have an exam the next day? Probably not. Will it kill her? Probably not. Will she likely regret her decision at midnight when she starts studying and realizes she’s too tired to study or runs out of time to do what she thought she could do? Probably. Will I be tempted to say, “I told you so”? Probably. But these are the life lessons that we can give them the grace to learn while under our roof, while we can still be there when they fall, tell them it’s going to be okay, and help them make a different decision the next time.
Who are you?
There is so much pressure on our seniors to know where they want to go and what they want to do for the rest of their life when they are all of 17-years-old. Seriously. On the one hand, of course, it is important for them to make the grades that will help them be successful after high school. But on the other hand, do they really need to apply to Ivy League “stretch” schools just because they can, and know exactly what their major is when they have no idea what a career in that field really looks like? As parents, we can affirm the things our kids are good at and passions that seem to be bubbling to the surface in conversations about current events. We can verbalize that to them so they know we believe in them and see great potential in them. But, we can also let them be uncertain, let them know it’s okay to change their mind once they get there, and let them know we will love them forever because of WHO they are, not WHAT they are.
Maybe even more difficult this year, and yet perhaps more similar this year to life after high school, learning to balance work, play, and rest is one of the most important skills we can teach our seniors this year. Taking classes online, without the constant supervision of teachers and/or parents will be a challenge for some of our kids practicing to be adults. There’s a constant temptation to distraction, less accountability, and yet a need for us as parents to help our seniors develop time management strategies that will help them succeed beyond high school. Start the conversation. . . What is your most productive time of day? What makes you feel awake and ready to work? What routine could you start that would build a healthy rhythm to your day? How can I help? The challenge for me is that this daughter is wired way differently than I am, and I may need to let her figure out how to manage her time her way.
And finally, maybe not the most glamorous of our tasks as parents of seniors, it’s time to learn some life skills. If you haven’t already, teach them to do their own laundry–and let them be responsible for it, week after week. Let them learn now, that if they don’t do laundry for two weeks, their room will smell and they will run out of underwear. It’s okay, mom. Teach them how to cook a few meals they could make for a date or roommates. I hadn’t cooked a meal solo until I was married, and bless my husband’s heart, he was a saint to suffer through that awkward process. Give your senior a night a week that they are in charge of dinner. Teach them how to make a meal plan, a grocery list, and shop on a budget. If your senior hasn’t had the experience of applying for a job or holding a basic, minimum-wage paying job yet, now is the time. Honestly, life will never be less busy. There’s so much to be learned from serving the public, having to do work that is hard and you don’t really like, and working with people who are different than you. Let them struggle with this now, so you can encourage them to hang in there, respect their boss, spend their earnings wisely, and enjoy the feeling of a job well done.
So, parents of seniors, this is a big year. And while it may not be what we have expected, let’s not lose sight of the significance of our role as parents this year in shaping our young people for all that is too soon to come. And meanwhile, you may find me quietly crying in my car in a parking lot, wishing time would slow down.