Once your teenager enters high school, they’re also entering some of the most transformative years of their lives. As if out of nowhere, they suddenly have to deal with much harder coursework, extracurriculars, jobs, standardized tests, college applications—all while trying to make friends and maintain a social life. All of these things and more will shape their personalities and prepare them to be independent.

 

During this time, while teenagers are learning how to navigate new responsibilities and make decisions for themselves, you as a parent can either be the support system that they need to get through it all or the point of contention that stops them from growing their autonomy. How you interact with and treat your student during these next few years can be a factor in whether they succeed or fail.

 

At the end of the day, you as a parent know what’s best for your young adult. However, as you send him/her back to high school and into college applications season, there are a few things that you ought to remember as you interact with and make decisions for your child. Read on for some helpful tips explaining what your student is going through and how to help them put their best foot forward.

 

1. Your Kid Isn’t a Kid Anymore

Often, when your kid is a freshman and maybe even sophomore in high school, you may still be doing most things for them like taking them to school, giving them lunch money, and buying their school supplies. However, once they become upperclassmen and start doing things like driving and getting jobs of their own, it’s safe to say that your kid is now a young adult.

 

That can be a difficult concept to grasp for some parents. Just a few years ago, your child needed you for everything. However, as they get older, sometimes they become more independent, which may make you feel like you don’t have as many opportunities to protect them and make sure they’re doing what’s best.

 

There is a delicate balance between treating your child like the independent adult that they have become while also making sure they’re doing the right things (even if the right things aren’t what they want to do). Here are some suggestions to help you find that balance:

 

  • Hear Them Out: Young adults sometimes aren’t good at vocalizing the reasons why they think the way they do. If you and your child are disagreeing on something, you can listen to their reasoning and encourage them to share so that both of you can understand where your child is coming from. Even if you still disagree with your child at the end of the conversation, your young adult will feel like they were heard, and you will probably understand your teen’s life a little bit better.
  • Talk to Them Like Adults:  The typical, “you’ll do it because I say so” line doesn’t work on your child anymore. It’s not that your child is suddenly disobeying you or that you’ve lost power or respect from your teenager. Your teenager is just old enough to understand how the world works and that you don’t always know everything. As a parent, you can acknowledge your child’s maturity and show them respect by treating them like a fellow adult instead of a child. You may find that they will treat you with respect in turn.

 

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2. Their High School and College Application Experience Is Different Than Yours Was

Even though you can still help your child with their homework, high school now is not the same as high school when you were a student. Nowadays, students use laptops for their assignments, are in constant communication with their friends or peers even when they’re not around them, and are trying to prepare themselves for a much more competitive college application process (see State Colleges are Getting More Competitive. Here’s How to Stay Ahead of the Curve). So, when they tell you that you don’t know what it’s like to be them, in many ways they’re right.

 

As a parent, you may be worried that you can’t relate to what your child is going through or even help them out at times. If this is a concern, here are some ways for you to better understand what they’re experiencing:

 

  • Let Your Child Explain: When it comes to things like online registration for standardized tests or digital college applications, your student may know a lot more about it than you do because they are more comfortable with newer technology and because their teachers and guidance counselors may have explained the process. If that’s the case, listen to them and try to understand the new way of doing things. You can always chime in with advice where you think you are qualified to give it.

 

  • Do Your Homework: Try to do some basic research and find out how things have changed since you were in school. For example, you could do a simple search to find out what online college applications look like and what the requirements are nowadays. If that doesn’t cut it, you could schedule a meeting with your child’s principal or guidance counselor at school to learn what you can do to help your child succeed from an expert. Even doing something less time-intensive like attending your child’s open house or parent-teacher conference at school could help you understand the environment that is shaping your child.

 

3. Your Young Adult Still Needs You

Even though your kid is now a young adult and may not need you to protect them or do things for them, your teen still needs your support. The easiest way to support a high school teenager handling a bunch of new responsibilities is to listen to them and be there to talk if and when they need it.

 

Your teenager may not always be able to find the right words to express what they’re feeling. When that happens, it’s perfectly normal to not understand them or get what we’re saying. Odds are, they’re not sure either. All you as a parent need to do is listen to them and tell them that everything is going to be okay regardless of how the process turns out.

 

Simply letting your child know that you are here for them whenever they need you is a huge comfort to most high school students. After all, the road to adulthood and college is not an easy one, and it’s always nice for a teenager to know that he or she has the resources to succeed and the cheerleaders to help get there.

 

 

For More Information

We at CollegeVine are here to support the parents of college-bound high school students in whatever way we can. Here are some helpful guides for parents going through the high school and college application process with their young adult:

 

Helping Parents Understand College Applications: A Guide for First Generation College Applicants

A Parent’s Guide to College Planning

Parents, How Involved Should You Be in the College Application Process?

3 Strategies for Students and Parents To Start Saving For College Now

What Parents Need to Know About SAT and ACT Studying Prep

 

Finally, if you’re looking for something that will help your child build their academic and extracurricular profile to impress colleges, check out CollegeVine’s Mentorship Program. We carefully pair each student one-on-one with a mentor from a top college, who works personally with the student for an entire year. The program is designed to help students discover their interests, develop significant self-motivation, and become high performing individuals.

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Sadhvi Mathur

Sadhvi Mathur

Senior Blogger at CollegeVine
Sadhvi is a sophomore at the University of California, Berkeley, double majoring in Business Administration and Media Studies. Having applied to over 8 universities, each with different application platforms and requirements, she is eager to share her knowledge now that her application process is over. Other than writing, Sadhvi's interests include dancing, playing the piano, and trying not to burn her apartment down when she cooks!
Sadhvi Mathur

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