My Way or the Highway
A Guide for Parents When Talking To Their Children About Making Plans for Life After High School
Co-Owner, The Wise College Counsel, LLC.
As I reflect on some of my experiences as a high school counselor, I recall many tears shed by my students, arguments that went down between students and their parents and students confiding in me about not being ready for life after high school. The one topic that centered around the tears, arguments and disclosures was listening to parents plan out their child’s next steps after high school. Every parent needs to have the conversation with their child about their after high school plans, but the one thing parents must do when having that conversation is support their child’s decision, whatever that may be.
Beginning in elementary school and all the way through high school, school counselors spend lots of time on exploring career development with students and exposing them to different post educational options that are available to them. Not only do counselors discuss with students all the wonderful options that are available to them, we assist with preparing them on how to pursue those options. Children can spend many, many years thinking about their career interests and planning out a post secondary plan. It is important for parents to understand that many times students have made career and post secondary plans based on what they have learned and been exposed to throughout their 13 years of school.
As I have met with many parents over the last decade, I learned that some parents desire to be proactive about things when it comes to their children. Some parents feel that if they tell their child which career to pursue, where to apply to college and which college to select, then they can protect their child from making any mistakes along the way. Students have to be able to make decisions about their life when it comes to planning their future. Should they make a mistake about something, at least it will be their mistake and they can learn from it. When a student makes a decision not to go to college, or to go to a specific college or to major in a particular field, the student will be more invested in the choice and more likely to succeed because the student had a decision in the plan. It is always good when parents offer guidance to their children about their future, but my advice in doing that would be try not to let the guidance turn into discouragement for what they want to do.
A few words of encouragement for parents as you begin to have discussions with your high schooler about plans after high school:
Talk to your children about their plans, listen to what they want, and avoid dismissing their dreams.
Share your own experiences about planning for life after high school, which may lead to you offering some much needed guidance.
Support your children's plans. If their plans are not reasonable, talk about it and offer some redirection.
Don’t let your plans limit your children’s options.
Planning for life after high school can be both an exciting and a stressful time for students. Your child needs and wants your positive support through the journey.