With a new year comes setting goals and expectations for the coming months. Making a plan is especially important for your high schooler. Those four years fly by, and you don’t want them heading into senior year with panic and anxiety trying to figure out what to do after graduation.

The first step is to have a conversation with your teen. But how can you do this so it doesn’t make them shut down or roll their eyes? Here are things you need to do to prepare for that conversation with your teen: 

Check Your Mindset – What are your thoughts and feelings about what your teen should do after high school? They may range from, “We need to pick which college they will attend,” or, “I am not sure college is the right path for my teen.” There is a prevailing mindset that teens must go to college. It’s how you make a hefty annual salary, and everyone just needs the experience. I am here to tell you that it’s not that way anymore. Many successful people went into the trades or took other paths besides college. That’s not to say your teen shouldn’t go to college. As a parent, just be open to different possibilities. 

Ask Your Teen – Get your teen’s perspective on what they want to do after high school. They may have some ideas but may also feel overwhelmed by the idea of figuring it out. Your teen may feel anxious because all their friends know exactly what they want to do. Start by asking questions like, “What are some careers that interest you? What is it about those careers that appeal to you?” If your teen replies, ”I have no idea what careers I may like,” then ask, “What are some steps you can take to figure this out, and what can I do to support you?” The most important thing is to pause and listen to their answers.

Don’t Dictate – You may unknowingly send your teen signals about what you want them to do after high school. My oldest thought we expected him to go to college, even though he didn’t think he was ready. I worked with a family whose daughter wanted to drop out of college because she hated her major but thought it was what her parents wanted. After working with me, her mom said she had no idea her daughter felt that way, and I had opened a line of communication she didn’t know they needed. The daughter stayed in college but changed her major to something she enjoyed. Ask yourself, what have you been saying to your teen about their future? Have you mentioned specific careers because they make lots of money? Do you keep bringing up specific colleges you think they should consider? It’s OK, but be open to your teen’s wants and needs.

Think Next Five Years – Reassure your teen that they don’t have to figure out what they want to do for the rest of their lives. It’s about determining what careers they would enjoy and identifying the education necessary after high school to get them there. Taking it in smaller increments is less daunting and easier to plan.

Would you like more help guiding your teen to their future? Schedule a complimentary College Assessment Plan Call where we will discuss your and your teen’s ideas for post-high school, what obstacles are getting in the way, and how to create the best path. One client’s parent said about our call, “I need peace of mind about my son’s future, and you are it.”