Dear parent of a high school senior

Dear Parent:

You didn’t think you’d survive their first day of kindergarten, and now that they’re about to start their senior year, you’re a bundle of emotions. You’re proud of who they have become, frustrated that they don’t quite act like an adult yet, nervous about their next steps, and stressed they won’t get everything done in time for those college applications, scholarships, and everything else you’re constantly reminding them about.

A word of advice? Relax. They’re frustrated, nervous, and stressed, too, and right now, they don’t need you to make it worse. I know you mean well and you’re only looking out for their best interests, but there’s something they need to know: What they experience this year is how they’ll remember you.

Think about that for a moment. The memories you’re making this year are what they’ll remember as they head off to college, the military, or whatever’s next. Do you want them to remember someone who’s stressed and constantly snapping at them … or do you want them to remember the parent who laughs alongside them as you watch a funny movie?

When was the last time you did something fun with them? Something silly? Remember that vacation when you all went mini-golfing and you slipped and fell into the water hazard? That day you picked them up after school and surprised them with a movie and ice cream? Or when they came home from the last day of school and you were hiding in the bushes with a super-soaker? You’re smiling as you remember those sillier, funnier moments. They treasure them, too. So why not spend this year making more of those memories? Why not get to know each other as friends instead of just as parent and child?

Playing and having fun together benefits both of you at any age. It lowers stress and reduces anxiety. When you’re both less stressed, you’ll be better able to strengthen the connections between you, so you can draw closer together. As they go off to college or wherever, having that strong relationship will make the transition easier on both of you. Besides, it’s just plain fun.

Yes, sooner than they realize, they’re going to have a mortgage payment. And have to deal with health insurance and affording the right daycare and saving for your grandchildren’s education, so you want to make sure they have a good job. But not now. Now they need your love, your support, and your friendship. Now they need you to take a deep breath and resist the urge to remind them about the application deadline once again.

Not sure you can step back and let them be kids for one more year? Are you finding the stress of being the parent of a senior overwhelming? Why not sit down with one of our professional counselors to talk about how it feels and learn ways to turn your fears and concerns into positive steps? I’m not suggesting you need years of intensive therapy … maybe just a couple conversations to help you adjust your focus and strengthen your coping skills. We have appointments available, so you can contact us and set a time.

(Oh, one more thing. If they tell you they’re participating in senior skip day, don’t panic. It won’t keep them out of college or endanger their future career. And if you don’t make an issue about it, you might find your relationship getting stronger.)