High School Graduation - Is Your Teenager Going to Be Ready?Jul 28, 2022
I attended a high school graduation party this weekend. As we were sharing a few moments with the mother of the graduate, I asked how she was doing and if she was ready for her son to head off to college. She responded that she was ready because she felt like he was ready.
I said, “That is awesome. Good for you.”
This conversation was a great example of how the parent-child relationship changes as our children move into and through their teenage years. The natural progression is for the parent’s role to shift from one of management/control to that of an advisor. One of the primary causes of conflict between the parents that I work with and their teenager is the parent’s resistance to making this transition. Here is a piece of wisdom from someone who has gone through the teenage years with six children: you can’t stop your child from growing into an adult. Consequently, one of the greatest gifts you can give them is the ability to manage their own life.
To get them ready.
You will start being confronted with this realization when your child turns eighteen. This first time this happened for me was when my oldest son, Jake, went off to his freshman year of college. I called the bursar's office to see if I could set up a payment plan for his tuition. The individual on the other end of the phone informed me that she could not discuss the details of Jake’s account with me without his permission. I said, “You are telling me that even though I am the one paying the bill and it is my son’s account you can’t discuss it with me?” She responded, “Yes.” So what had happened? Jake was now eighteen years old. He was no longer a minor. In the eyes of law, he was an adult and was responsible for his account, in this case.
So if this transition is inevitable how do you prepare yourself and your teenager?
Resign as the manager of your teenager’s life.
It is kind of like when you resign from a job. First of all, you don’t leave the employer hanging. A responsible resignation includes a notice. In the business world this could be as short as 2 weeks and in the case of a retirement, it could be as much as a year. Secondly, you would participate in the training of your replacement.
I recommend the same approach with your teenager. Give them a notice and start training them.
The notice involves a conversation where you share that they will be out on their own soon and it is going to be up to them to manage their own life. Go on to share your intention to start making the transition by shifting more and more responsibility to them over the next few years. Reassure them that you will be there to support and coach them as they take this on.
Next, start looking for opportunities to shift responsibility. Here are a few examples:
- Turn over the responsibility to taking care of their room and the stuff in it. This could include teaching them to do their own laundry.
- Turn over the day-to-day management of their school work and their grades.
- Have them start paying for their leisure activities such as movies, gaming, and going out with friends. Obviously, this will involve them finding a way to make some money.
- Have them start managing more tasks such as making their doctor and dentist appointments, setting up their hair cuts, and taking the car in for an oil change.
You may be surprised by how resourceful and responsible your teenager can be with a little support and encouragement.
Family Enrichment Coach