The last year of high school can be a really tough transition, and not just for your senior. It’s a significant rite of passage for the entire family – including parents.
We want to be conscious about how we support our families through senior year – parents and kids, alike. It’s going to be emotional for most of us in different ways. If we ignore ourselves and focus only on our kids, we may wake up the day they leave and feel completely lost.
You will be better prepared to handle this transition if you follow these five tips to make the most out of senior year – for parents, and the whole family.
Five Tips For Maximizing Your Senior's Last Year
1. Focus on Connecting
Spend as much time as you can just having fun with your kid. Treasure this year of lasts and create memories. As proud as I am of my son’s growing independence, I’ve made it very clear he’s not skipping out on our last spring vacation. It’s important for us to do as a family, and I think my son understands that. He knows that I put our relationship first.
I grew up in a family where accomplishment and success were of high importance. As a shift, I’ve spent the last few years emphasizing what I really want for my kids: happiness and self-confidence. My focus became more about how I want my kids to feel than about what I want my kids to accomplish. Having kids who feel connected, proud and happy, became more important than checking boxes or getting the right grades. Your kids will notice when you make this your priority. Mine certainly have.
2. Encourage Individual Relationships
My daughter says she can’t wait for her brother to leave after he graduates high school this year. In her mind, the house is finally going to be a girls-only zone. “Mom and daughter sleepover every night!” she exclaims. Honestly, I think she’s mostly excited about having more space – it’s hard being the younger sibling.
But I know something she may never admit: she’s really going to miss her brother.
This year, I've seen her connecting with him more – wanting to be around him, wanting to do things with him. She may not be conscious of it, but I’m definitely celebrating and encouraging their relationship. I’ve always wanted my kids to have their own connection with each other, and they’re beginning to figure it out for themselves. It is actually a beautiful gift for me.
3. Be Transparent
Tell your own stories. Be upfront about your hopes and fears. When we share our own emotions, it gives our kids permission to do the same thing. It invites them to really open up. When there’s a give and take, it shows them that we really do care about how they’re feeling.
Beyond that, if you’re a reminiscent kind of person, it might be fun to tell your kids about some of your stories about going off to college. Storytelling is a powerful connector. Besides, now that they're facing this next stage of their lives, it is more relevant to them than ever before.
4. Ask Them About Their Experiences
A lot of times we parents don’t ask our kids about what's going on for them because we’ve been shot down before. How many times have you heard that aggravated grown after simply asking about your kid’s day? Especially in this last year, our kids may not be super willing to talk about what they're experiencing – at least, not at first.
But a lot of parents don’t realize that when you create space for a solid relationship, it allows you the opportunity to engage in old conversations in new ways. By putting our relationship first, I’ve been able to show my son that I have his back. He knows that I value education, and that I want him to find a career. He also knows that I’m there for him. With that foundation, my son has been a lot more forthcoming.
Open communication is super important, in part because it helps us gauge our kids' level of stress, which is particularly important to be aware of during senior year. We want to find the balance between recognizing what is too overwhelming, and challenging our kids to step outside their comfort zone. Without constant dialogue, it can be hard for both the parent and the kid to be aware of what’s going on.
5. Check in with Yourself
By senior year we parents have dealt with a lot. As parents of complex kids, we’ve dealt with even more. It is a long, tough road, and we all really transform in the process.
Every kid has a path. As young parents, we created images of what we thought our kid’s path was going to be like. When we discovered that our kids were complex, we had to discover a new narrative, to start from scratch in many ways,
And not only did we have to learn about what our kids needed along the way. We had to figure out what we needed, as well. That is every bit as important now that our kids are leaving has it has been along the path...
So, senior year for parents. Yes, you should be as proud of yourself as you are of your kids!
This is an intense time, for you, your senior, and the rest of the family. Honor the struggles. Celebrate the triumphs. And treasure the time you have together as a family.