Your child is a senior in high school, which means you are more worried about him/her than ever.
My daughter’s senior year of high school was awful. She broke up with her long-time boyfriend. She could not make up her mind about what college to attend. She was cranky and irritable most of the year. I was ready to ship her off to boarding school. I worried every minute of every day about her.
I found out since that this is completely normal. As they prepare to leave home, tensions increase.
What Other Mothers Say About Their Senior Year Worries
Want to hear what my friends said about senior year? I know this is a small group, but their concerns were major—and it’s likely that you can relate to some of these fears.
Moms of boys:
“I worry about John doing something stupid that will derail his (my?) plans for his future.”
“I worry Andy will get arrested or in an automobile accident or just be in the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong people.”
“I constantly worry about Keith getting a girl pregnant.”
“Boys just seem to have a lack of judgement and common sense. My son thinks he is bulletproof.”
Moms of girls:
“I don’t like the boy Julie is dating. He has more influence over her than I do.”
“I worry constantly that Anne will get pregnant. Her best friend got pregnant and now I worry about her.”
“She is always upset with one of her friends. I worry she will never keep friends or make new ones.”
“I worry about Alice being in the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong people.”
Why Senior Year Is So Troublesome
By senior year, your child is old enough to get into REAL trouble (yes, like real go-to-jail-kind-of-trouble) that will have serious consequences.
We just hope and pray every minute that they can graduate from high school with their plans and dreams intact. Just hoping and praying won’t work. Senior year is our last best chance to impact their lives. It takes action.
Three Strategies for Managing the Stress of Senior Year
So what’s a mom to do? Here are the 3 things I did. I hope they help you.
Tip #1: Trust Your Parenting
First, remember the old adage, “Train up a child in the way they should go and when they are old, they will not depart from it.” Also, recognize that most of the things you worry about never actually happen. You have had 17 years to instill your values and your ideas in your children. It’s time to trust your parenting and let them make their own decisions. They are going to be doing that anyway next year. Beyond that, you have to hope (and pray) for the best.
Tip #2: Remove the Temptation
This was the toughest. Senior year is a time when kids will start practicing the independence they will have in college. This can be a source of great discomfort for you.
It’s important to find a way to have peace during this time. For me, it meant not leaving them alone on the weekends when trouble could—and sometimes did—happen. If my husband and I went out of town, we had a responsible older adult stay with them. We never left them alone in our home senior year.
Now not all parents will agree with this, but it worked for us. It removed the temptation during a year when I knew they would be most tempted to test limits.
Find a balance between your need for peace and their need for developing independence. This is a delicate dance which only you can determine.
Tip #3: Hold Your Child Responsible
It was my intention that my children graduate from high school and go to college. Then to go out into the world, get jobs, get married, have kids. Have a good, productive life as a successful adult.
By senior year I had to intentionally parent my kids. Senior year I had to look for “teachable moments” while they were still under my roof.
Here’s a good example of a teachable moment:
One family I know left their daughter home alone for the weekend. Of course, she threw a party and the parents got a call in the middle of the night from their next door neighbors.
Their response? Intentional parenting. The parents called the police to go to their house and break it up. Not every parent would do that, but these did. It scared their daughter and all her friends to death. Fear of jail is a major wake up call for most kids. A party like that never happened again at their home.
And the next day when the parents arrived home, no mention was made of the party. Instead the parents decided that the very best thing for their hungover daughter was to do manual labor. Six hours of hard labor in the yard with Dad made her sweat. The message she got was clearer than if they had blown up and given her a 2-hour lecture.
So find your own voice and make your points in creative ways. (If you want some more good examples, be sure to read my blog It’s Always “Spring” Time at Aaron’s Bonding.)
The Bottom Line
It’s unrealistic to think you won’t worry about your child senior year of high school.
Take comfort in the fact that this year is a natural and normal part of your child’s growth. It’s also a natural and normal part of your growth as a parent.
Of course you are going to worry. Managing that worry will make your home happier and more peaceful.
I survived, and you will too.
I welcome your comments below. What strategies have worked for you? Please share!