The presumed end of public education begins when your child starts 12th grade. 12th grade, also known as the senior year’ is a time of great change for your child and you they will be officially entering the threshold of adulthood. As a parent, it can be a difficult time for you as you imagine your child growing up, and going away to spread their wings and fly. The key is knowing how to help them spread their wings, and giving them both permission and your blessing to begin thinking about what they want out of life during their 12th grade year.
For most kids, high school is a time of finding ones path in life. Once they enter their freshmen year, the education system begs children to begin looking at their future. In 12th grade, the 3 previous years of soul searching and developing their personal interests and possible passions in life culminate. As a parent, there are things that you should do to help your child move forward fearlessly.
- Expose your child to many different options after high school. College is not the right path for every child, no matter how bad a parent wants it to be. If your child is not interested in pursuing education at this point, help them find other options. Traveling, going on mission trips, getting a job for a year, going to a trade or technical school are all relevant options that will advance your child’s future. Oftentimes, one year in the real world enables an older teenager to focus more clearly on their dreams and goals and they can develop a better sense of what they want by living in the ‘real world.’
- Begin giving them space and responsibility. Your child can drive. The 12th grade year of school is often about celebrating the end of a chapter. This will be a bittersweet time in their lives and it is important that you let them go and allow them to become responsible for themselves. This way, should they leave for college or in an exchange program, you will feel better about their abilities to be mature and make responsible choices. AND, they will feel empowered to do so. Be more lenient with curfews, and use this year as a time to allow them to make their own decisions and see the consequences of those decisions as well.
- If you have not done so already (and according to a Reuters survey most parents of high schoolers have not) allow them to be financially responsible. This is a good time to have them start paying for their car insurance, helping with bills, getting their cell phone in their own name.
- Start applying for scholarships and financial aid. If your child is planning to go to college, this is the year to start filling out forms and paperwork to ensure that they are able to get there. Most secondary schools require that students have this paperwork filled out prior to January 1st of their senior year in order to be considered.
- Sit down and talk to a career and educational counselor at their school TOGETHER. Most schools have a system in place that works with your child throughout high school in order to help them plan for their future. At the beginning of 12th grade, you should sit down and evaluate progress, credit hours, and associated needs of degree programs and/or career development. You an also opt for your student to start their collegiate career early, or get them involved with a work release program that will help them lock down employment during their senior year and afterwards.
- Look for internships. Your student should be involved in looking for, finding, and securing internships. If they have a specific interest then they should be contacting organizations that offer internships and fill out applications. This is a lengthy process that should be completed during the 12th grade year.
- Take all required standardized testing. Most students take these test, such as the SAT’s and ACT’s during high school. It is important to register for these tests at least twice during the senior year (and before January 1st) so that your child’s highest scores can be calculated. If your child is college bound then these test results will be necessary for college applications as well. Most schools start signing kids up during the registration process (or over the summer) prior to 12th grade. Additionally, if your child has taken the tests before and not scored well, utilize the summer and early fall months to work with a tutor to help them improve their scores.
- College applications! Lots of them. Make sure to set some time aside so that you and your teenager can visit campuses so they can get a feel of the type of atmosphere that they want.
- Impress upon your child that working hard during 12th grade is important and that even though they may be accepted into a college or career path already it is vital that they continue the good work. Colleges, internships, and other post education opportunities do count the 12th grade year as part of their entrance eligibility.
- Have your child seek leadership roles and get involved with after school and extra curricular activities. Whether they are headed for college or the job front, they will need skills that set them apart in order to be seen. Having a full resume will help their resume stand out.
- don’t be too forceful! Remember this is a time of great change for your child. At their age, it is not truly 100% that they will really know what they want to do when they are grown up. Their vision of the world is still a little cloudy. Be patient with them, and realize that they are spreading their wings and need you to support them. If they seem to have whims, or little directions then encourage them to explore their interests further.
- Prepare for empty nest! Starting 12th grade marks the beginning of the end for both YOU and your child. It is important that you prepare yourself as well, in as many ways as possible so that your child doesn’t feel burdened by your difficulty in letting go. Start indulging in your own passions again, start finding things that you are interested in, so that you will have more to do than wallow in the fact that your child is leaving (or moving on).