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Parenting Teenagers - Getting Kids Ready To Leave The Nest

Nov 1, 2007
In my home, I am currently enjoying a high school senior. My third child is preparing to leave the nest and build a life for herself.

While parenting teenagers, I have come to realize there are some fundamentals that can help a parent ready their teen to move onto the next stage of their young life. Here are a few I have identified as extremely helpful.

-- Take high school seriously.

My teenagers have all been quite different in personality and all have experienced high school in their own unique ways. That's fine. The important lesson I have required them to consider is that 'what you do in high school has consequences for your future'.

That doesn't mean if you make a mistake in high school you cannot overcome it. Not at all. It just means that the teenager who sees high school as an important step to her future will seriously consider her part in it. She will take more responsibility for her academic learning. She will take advantage of opportunities to learn how to function in a bigger environment through sports, clubs, or volunteer work.

She will appreciate that high school can be a lot of fun, but it can't be ALL fun if she is to be ready and excited for the steps that will come after graduation.

When you're parenting teenagers it's your job to help your teen see these issues, pointing them out and helping her make any necessary adjustments.

-- Look at the big picture.

Parenting teenagers means helping them find their niche in the world. Career assessments are an important part of that process. Most high schools have career programs in place for teens to use. Check to see if your school has these tools and encourage your teenager to use them. Often!

I started using career assessments in our teens' first year of high school. I continued using them throughout their four years until our teens were comfortable with the personal assessment process. Sometimes that meant our teen had an idea about what major he wanted to choose in college. Sometimes not. That didn't matter. It was the process of self-discovery that held the most value.

Something else to keep in mind in this day and age is that the career your teenager starts with is probably NOT going to be the only one he has in his life. Current job projections are that most workers in the western world will hold a variety of positions over their careers. Retraining will become the norm.

Knowing this can take the pressure off your teen. And you.

-- Get ready emotionally.

When I went to college, I was not ready. I was ready academically, I was ready financially, however I was not ready emotionally. Because of this, I struggled tremendously my first semester and missed out on a lot my college had to offer. You can see this same phenomenon today on college campuses as emotionally-unprepared freshmen isolate themselves, indulge in irresponsible and inappropriate behavior or worse.

I took this lesson to heart and have been intentional with each of my children prepping them for the emotional challenges they will face once they leave home. While there are several parts to this goal, at some point this has involved empowering them with the ability to be away from home comfortably. I've accomplished this by using summer jobs in other places (Boy Scout camps, family businesses), and long visits to relatives in other states.

This has often involved tears. That's okay. As long as the child is safe and secure, discovering they can overcome homesickness on their own is a powerful tool for their future and one that they need *before* they leave for college.

While these are only a few pieces of the parenting teenagers' puzzle, they are important pieces. Let your teen know you want to help her get ready for her future. Show her how to instill confidence in her ability to make decisions about her life, as well as make changes when necessary.

As a parent of a teen, keeping your focus on these areas will help you intentionally guide your teen forward towards their bright and promising future.
About the Author
Colleen Langenfeld has been parenting for over 26 years and helps other moms enjoy mothering more at http://www.paintedgold.com . Visit her website and learn more about parenting teenagers today.
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