Last week we dropped our daughter off at college. I had planned to write this blog on our fifteen hour car ride, but alas, that did not happen. Apparently road trips require more brain power than I remembered. 😉 We did get her safely to Minnesota, and unfortunately, she decided to stay there and go to college as planned. Kidding! We are so excited for her and her next steps, although of course we’re missing her already.
As I look back on September of last year, when she was beginning her senior year of high school, I remember how everything felt up in the air. And now here we are a year later, and so many things have been figured out. So I thought I would jot down a handful of things I wish I’d known about navigating senior year from a parent’s perspective.
1. You’re going to feel overwhelmed and think that everyone else has it figured out while you’re the only one who doesn’t. As Dwight would say: FALSE!
No one has it figured out. It’s a weird year full of emotions and ups and downs. The amount of stress we felt in our household during senior year was unparalleled to the other years of high school. It will feel like your child’s whole future – and therefore yours – is up in the air and undecided and that’s a bit freaky. But it’s okay. By the end of the year, you will have figured out some sort of plan, whether that plan is for your child to take a year off and work or head to college. So breathe deep and buckle up for the ride. There are going to be highs and lows, and knowing or even expecting those ahead of time will hopefully lessen the sting.
2. The decisions that need to be made during senior year are going to take time, and honestly, they all feel big. Whether that’s deciding to play a sport their senior year, how many volunteer hours they need, which scholarships to apply for, or what college your senior is interested in attending, every decision has to be weighed in numerous ways. Have patience with yourself and your senior. If it feels big to us, it feels just as big to them, if not bigger.
3. Don’t bring up college (and other) questions all the time–at dinner, out to eat, on car rides. I learned this one the hard way! Turns out my constant questions were causing a lot of stress. When you have concerns or other items that need to be discussed with your teen, make a list. I finally figured out that instead of spouting or texting my questions at all hours of the day, I could simply write them down to be dealt with at a later time. Which brings me to point four and my favorite of all of them.
4. Schedule a time to meet weekly and save your concerns and discussions for that hour, and you will save yourself and your kid a ton of stress. I give my friend Heather credit for this idea. We decided to have a meeting each week where we would discuss all things college, all things deadlines, scholarships, school classes and more. This is the time I would refer to my list. And I tried to keep it ranked as to what needed to be handled that week. We would check off numerous items and then I would save the rest for the next week based on due dates. This idea saved us so much trouble. And yes, absolutely bribe your child with food or drink that will make them enjoy this meeting more. 😉
5. Practice letting them go during their senior year. As I sit here on the first day that our daughter is not home with us, it’s not all that unusual for her not to be present at our house. She was often working and often with friends, and we’re so thankful for both of those things. If you have a child that you can grant freedom to, then absolutely begin to grant them freedom. It’s nice to see ahead of time that they can handle things on their own.
6. I’m including a bonus number, because this one was prominent for me during senior year. Spend as much time with your senior as you can. Since our daughter didn’t have to be at school during her free periods, there were many times we stole away for lunch or ran errands together. Since I work at home, I often felt a tug between the two – work or her – but as much as possible, I chose her. And I am so thankful that I did. Yes, there’s a gap between my last book and my June 2024 release, but I’ll never get back that time with her again. And now, I sadly have an empty house to get alllll the work done in. 🙂 Thankfully our son still has four years of high school left. I plant to enjoy every last minute of those!
As I look forward, I cannot imagine that our family will go months without seeing each other. It’s hard to fathom. I get panicky when I think too far into the future. So I’ll just be here taking this new distance between us one day at a time. I’m simply going to do today. And I know each of my days will be filled with lots of prayer for our daughter as she does all the new things. If your child is heading into their senior year, I pray that it’s filled with joy and peace amidst the many decisions you all will make.