Helping your children transition from high school

I have tried to encourage her to think about what comes next but I feel like I am talking to a brick wall...

My child has just graduated from high school and I am worried.

All she seems interested in is hanging out with her friends, chatting on the computer for hours on end and planning her social engagements for the upcoming weekend.

She has refused to get a part-time job and is talking about hanging out all summer. She does not seem to have a plan for what comes after high school.

I have tried to encourage her to think about what comes next but I feel like I am talking to a brick wall. The last thing I want for her is to have nothing to do come the fall and to be hanging around the house looking for handouts.

I really want her to take some steps towards becoming independent and responsible for herself.

It is pretty common for parents to begin to worry about their children as they make the transition from high school.

As parents we have been looking forward to this moment for quite a long time. It represents both a significant accomplishment that we can be proud of for our children and a time that marks a larger transition to greater independence (we hope).

For many youth approaching graduation from high school, their focus is on finishing up their work, planning for the festivities and looking forward to the celebration with their friends.

For some, the last thing on their minds is what happens next.

For these youth, our attempts to open up the discussion about what comes next often seems to fall on deaf ears, because that is not their focus. This does not mean that they have not thought about it, but would rather not think about it now.

If this is the case with your daughter, then it is likely that continued attempts to discuss what comes next will continue to seem like they fall on deaf ears.

However, that does not mean that you should drop the conversation. Rather, recognize that the conversation may not lead to resolution right now while continuing to make it clear that there is an expectation that a plan be developed now that the summer has arrived.

Secondly it is important that you are clear about what your expectations are and that these are being communicated to your child.

For this you need to know how you are going to manage expectations as long as your child remains at home. Being clear about what you expect around future school, work, finances and behaviour as long as your child decides to live in your home is important.

The goal is to require that your child take responsibility for her own choices and circumstances.

Once you are clear on what your expectations are, you can let your child know them as they come up in conversation.

This sets the stage for a more focused conversation once she has had a chance to think about them. It also helps to make it clear that you expect to have that more focused conversation soon.

For some youth the reality of what graduation from high school means for them only starts to sink in after it happens and the summer is winding down.

For these youth it is important that as their parents we are clear about the parameters we are willing to accept as they transition into the next phase of their lives so that they can make informed choices about their own futures.

All youth have an awareness that these choices are coming; our job is to help set the stage so that they can make the best choices they can.

In the meantime, make sure you also take the time to celebrate and honour your child’s accomplishment. High school graduation is a time that we all remember and cherish.

Try to resist the temptation to project today’s behaviours too far into the future because many things often change quite quickly once graduation is complete, the summer is over and others that she knows start to move on.

If you wish to ask a question of the counsellors, for a response in future columns, e-mail them at info@pacifictherapy.ca. Consult a Counsellor is provided by registered clinical counsellors Nancy Bock, Diane Davies Leslie Wells, Andrew Lochhead and Sara Lynn Kang at pacific therapy & consulting inc. It appears every second Thursday in the Record.

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