How to Get Your Teenager to Take More Initiative

Do you have this issue with your teenager? You tell them to speak with their teacher to resolve a concern about a grade, to find out more about a project, or to reach out to their guidance counselor. But they just don’t do it. As parents, it’s frustrating because we can’t understand why it’s so hard for our kids to have these conversations. We wonder why they just won’t take the initiative. To help me overcome this challenge with my own kids, I reached out to Meg Lee, co-author of Mindsets For Parents: Strategies to Encourage Growth Mindsets in Kids. Meg has over 20 years experience in working in at levels in public education.

Meg shared with me an easy strategy you can use to help your child take more initiative when it comes to having conversations with adults.

Institute a back-and-forth journal with your teenager

My Ideal College shares ways to help your teenager take more initiative.

This simple book, which can be passed back and forth at regular intervals, gives the teenager a chance to talk to the parent in a safe way, as both parties have time to digest what is being said.  Often, parents write more at first, but Meg has found much power in helping to bring out the root causes of teens’ challenges, and in this case, it might help coax the child to be a bit more assertive. 

This concept could extend to talking to others like their teachers or guidance counselor… if your teenager is not comfortable going to speak with that person, would they be comfortable writing a note at first?  This is often a good first step for kids who fear not knowing how to handle what an adult might ask of them in a conversation.  While not a substitute for being comfortable with face-to-face interaction, this is often a good starting point.

Meg also shares that role-playing conversations with a trusted adult can be a wonderful way for teens to gain confidence.  It may sound goofy (and your child will certainly think so), but it is worth trying just to give them some language to use or some background experience before they have to enter a conversation or situation when they have to take initiative. Helping your child learn to take more initiative will serve them well throughout life – in college, their careers, and in relationships. What tips do you have to help your child take more initiative? Tell us in the comments below.

The Best Way To Work With The High School Guidance Counselor

Last week, I talked about how it’s not the guidance counselor’s responsibility to fully prepare your child about their future.  It’s the parent’s responsibility. You can click here to read the blog if you missed it. I did have one parent comment that it’s the child’s and parent’s responsibility. I fully agree, but as parents we have to sometimes provide our children with advice on how to move forward. Especially if they have no idea on what they want to do for their future.

Guidance counselors can provide great insights to help your child's future.

One way to guide your child is to have them reach out to their guidance counselor. They can share resources, provide insights about some options, and make sure your child stays on track to graduate. The guidance counselor wants your child to succeed.

Encourage your child to start meeting with their guidance counselor in their freshman year of high school and then meet another 2 – 3 times throughout the school year. The counselor will be able to provide the best guidance, the better they get to know your student.

Before your child has a meeting with the guidance counselor, have them formulate the questions they want to ask. Here are some possible questions:

  • What’s the best way to plan my high school courses for the college I want to attend?
  • What career tools does our school offer?
  • When is the PSAT scheduled? What study services does our school offer?
  • When do I need to consider dual enrollment?
  • Would dual enrollment be a right fit for me?
  • When and where are college fairs offered?
  • Does our school provide college tours? When?
  • What are the best schools for the career I want to go into?

Encouraging your child to meet with their guidance counselor not only provides support, but also encourages them to start thinking and taking ownership of their future

Parents, make sure to attend any parent nights at your child’s high school. They give key information about graduation requirements, testing dates, college fairs, and more. Also, check out your school’s guidance counselor page on the school’s website. It can include key dates and reminders.

If you are interested in knowing more about dual enrollment, check out my series of blog posts about it. Our local high school guidance counselors provided great insights into what to consider and how to determine if it’s a right choice for your child. You can click on each link to go to the specific blog.

What questions do you have for a school guidance counselor? Post in the comments below.

Who’s Responsible for Your Child’s College Planning?

I hear from so many parents, “The guidance counselor didn’t help my child much in guiding them on what college to go to.” Or ,“I wish we had you when I went through this with my first child. We didn’t have much help or guidance.”

My Ideal College shares who is ultimately responsible for college planning.

As parents, we may think it’s up to guidance counselors to show our kids the best path to take. Many parents feel that the school guidance counselor should be doing everything to make sure their child is on track to graduate and show them all their options of what to do after they graduate. They have more information than us about colleges, jobs, etc. So it makes sense, right?

But the truth is…

It’s our responsibility as parents, NOT the school guidance counselor, to help our children plan for their future.

In most schools, there is one guidance counselor for 100+ students. Plus, guidance counselors have many different responsibilities including:

  • testing
  • administering transcripts
  • counseling
  • coordinating with state agencies
  • managing dual enrollment
  • maintaining records

And that’s just a few of the responsibilities. How can we expect guidance counselors to provide enough individual attention to each child? Parents who have been through the college planning process with their child say it’s a full-time job, from 9th grade until graduation.  While counselors have access to all your child’s academic records, do they really KNOW your child?

Plus, there may be opportunities that are better for your child that the guidance counselors are not aware of. Many schools offer career services, but they require more initiative on the student to access. It’s true that counselors and school services can steer your child onto the right path, but their college and career planning is ultimately up to you, the parent.

Don’t make the mistake of other parents by assuming the school is solely responsible for guiding your child through the college planning process. Take the bull by the horn and help your child plan their future. If you need some assistance on where to start, I am happy to help. Send me an email at or give me a call at 678-761-3550.

My Ideal College shares how to not let college debt put a hold on your retirement.

How to Avoid Putting Your Retirement On Hold

A parent recently told me……

“I am facing retirement in less than two years. I wish I put my children’s hopes and dreams into perspective. College kids aren’t the only ones who take out education loans. More parents need to understand the impact of their child’s future on their own hopes and dreams.”

Debbie, Parent
My Ideal College shares how to not let college debt put a hold on your retirement.

My husband and I dream of traveling more in retirement. We hope to get an RV and travel all across the United States. While we are on target, we need more savings to retire. The good news is that we do have 529 plans for our kids, but it’s not nearly enough to cover their entire tuition for a standard four-year institution.

We are not alone. Many parents start college savings plans shortly after their kids are born. Yet, as they get closer to graduating from high school, we realize it’s not enough.

As parents, we are invested in helping our kids find and live their hopes and dreams. I know I would do anything to help my kids live their best life. But how much am I willing to derail my dreams for them?

I have one easy tip for you to help relieve some of that fear. That is to reach a mutual agreement between you, your spouse, and your child about the educational path your child will pursue after high school. The path should drive them towards their career. Makes sense, right? It’s why we pay the $100,000 plus tuition because we expect our children to get jobs in the field their major is in.

Here is why this is so important. A friend of mine has a nephew who had a dream of working in the audio-visual field. My friend and the mom knew the child was not “college material.” The father was fine with the field his son wanted to go into, BUT he was insistent that he attend a four-year institution. The son attended and dropped out a year and a half later. It wasn’t because of the audio-visual courses, it was the other courses required for graduation that he suffered. That year and a half put the family $20,000 in debt. That put a big dent into their retirement fund.

Think about these questions:

  • What are the career aspirations you have for your child?
  • Are they realistic for what your child’s interests are?
  • What kind of financial support can you provide for your child’s post high-school education?
  • How open are you to considering educational options other than a four-year college?

Next, have your child answer these questions:

  • Where do they see their future?
  • What are their career aspirations?
  • If they have specific careers in mind, what about those careers appeals to them?
  • What are the different educational options for that career – four-year college, technical college, certification?

Once you have a clear answer to these questions, have a conversation with your child. Then come to a mutual agreement on a path and start planning for it.

If your child is unclear on what career they are interested in, there are options for you.  Many high-schools offer free career assessments. Some are better than others. You want to make sure the assessment suggests actual jobs versus broad fields and that it’s directly tied to your child’s natural interests.

At My Ideal College, we use assessments that directly correlate a child’s interests into actual jobs. We are able to match your child’s interests based on the research of what it takes to be successful in each role.

Please contact us to help get your child started on the right path and you to your retirement dreams. Give us a call at 678-761-3550 or email us at

My Ideal College shares how to make the college search process easy.

How To Make the College Search Process Easy

Our family has a New Year’s Eve tradition of making fondue at home. I love this tradition for many reasons. One is the chocolate fondue. The other is that the fondue process forces us to sit, relax, and talk. It’s not a cook, put on the table, eat, and then go our separate ways. It’s a process where you sit together, choose what you want to put in the pot, and then you allow it to cook in the broth for a few minutes. We have steak, chicken, pork, and a variety of veggies – all in bite-sized pieces. We easily spend more than an hour of cooking, eating, and chatting.

My Ideal College shares how to make the college search process easy.

Being New Year’s Eve, our discussion includes our resolutions for the upcoming year. One of my resolutions is to be able to hold a plank position for 2 minutes. This led to an impromptu family competition of who could hold a plank the longest. My boys did outlast me but not by as much as I thought they would. #momwin

Now that my oldest child is a sophomore in high school, his resolutions are more about the college search and his career path. He does aspire to be a YouTube star. Luckily, he is realistic and knows he needs other income as he builds his YouTube empire.

I hear from many parents of first-time high schoolers. They know they need to help their child in their college search, but they don’t know where to start. Their child may have ideas for their future but what is the right answer? How can we help our kids without spending wasted countless hours and money finding the solution?

I am going to make this easy and break it down for you…

First, I want you to approach the college search process as a project. With any project, you need to outline action items, who’s responsible for completing the action items, and due dates for each action item. Your child will be responsible for most action items. However, there will be some you need to do and you need to guide your child along the way.

Next here are some action items your child should be doing broken down by grade:

9th grade – Explore extracurricular activities that they will enjoy and build new skills, it could be a sport, a learning a new language, technology related, etc.

10th grade – Start exploring careers of interest, meet with people in that career, identify the education needed for that career.

11th grade – Plan which colleges you want to tour, find when college fairs will be in your area.

12th grade – If you are going to college, look for scholarships to help offset costs. Keep up with good study habits and celebrate!

The college search and application process requires a lot of paperwork. Do you need some organization in your life? Check out the My Ideal College Countdown Organizer. You get a full list of exactly of what you need to do by grade plus a place to track actions and keep those important documents in one place.

Regardless if your child follows a path to a four-year college, goes to technical college, or takes a gap year, you need to help them plan for their future.

Want more guidance in your life in how to help your child in the college search process? Book a complimentary strategy session with me. I can answer your questions and provide advice on what to do next. You can email me at to schedule a time.

Tell us in the comments what your plans are this year to help your child in the college search process.