6 Things to Talk about with Your Teen before College

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As summer draws to a close and a new school year begins, change is in the air. Many of us have children who are about to leave our homes and head off to college or the workforce for the first time. Most people are uncomfortable with change, especially big ones like this. They don’t know how things will turn out and often expect the worst. That’s too bad—because change can be incredibly positive!

This year’s recent high school graduates are about to experience the greatest decade of change in their lives. Some of it will be voluntary and some of it not. Some of it will be clear and some of it will have highly uncertain outcomes. Some of it will be easy to handle and some will be highly stressful. It’s all part of their journey, and their journey is what will make them, THEM!

If you’re about to experience the launch, here are six topics to help you open up conversations about what may be in store. Share your stories about how you faced these similar changes—warts and all. Change doesn’t seem as intimidating when someone else you know has navigated it successfully and learned important life lessons along the way.

1. College majors and career paths. They will probably change their choice of career or major several times over, and this is normal. The anxiety associated with this big decision is considerable and far too many high schoolers are placing undue pressure on themselves to know their future major/career. Let them know that it’s okay to change their mind and that you’ll be supportive no matter what.

2. Future jobs. They will probably have five to seven jobs in their life. They will have to deal with new employers, new managers, new co-workers, new technology, and new locations multiple times. What are their interests, skills, and personal preferences?

3. Moving. They’ll likely move several times, whether for long periods or for short-term assignments. The assimilation involved in each situation is significant.

4. Dating. They’ll most likely date several different people before potentially settling down into marriage. Since there is much more at stake than during high school dating, the pressure is that much greater.

5. Social adjustments. It is important to make new friends once they leave home, while maintaining their long-term friendships. They’ll face lots of peer pressure (and you won’t be there to coach them through it), so it’s crucial for yours to know that they should never compromise their values to fit in with a certain social group. Self-confidence when meeting new people is huge. So, too, is knowing in advance the qualities of their BFFs.

6. The academic transition. There’s no way around it—college is much harder than high school. Freshman year might come as a shock as their workload and competition are far more challenging. Help them build the disciplines necessary to succeed.

Change can seem overwhelming, especially when it comes out of the blue. But we all have a choice when it comes to change. We can either withdraw in fear or we can embrace it as an opportunity for growth, adventure, and preparation for even bigger things down the road. Sure, change will be unsettling at times, especially when it involves relocation and “starting from scratch.” However, there are countless examples of people who have endured enormous upheavals that proved transformational and purposeful.

Since life is so unexpected, it’s wise to view change as a constant and become as adaptable as possible. That goes for all of us, no matter what season of life we’re in!

Image Credit

Dennis Trittin is President and CEO of LifeSmart Publishing, author of What I Wish I Knew at 18: Life Lessons for the Road Ahead and co-author of Parenting for the Launch: Raising Teens to Succeed in the Real World. With world-class leadership experience, passionate advocacy for the next generation, and acclaimed resources and speaking engagements on the topics of leadership, life skills, and parenting, Dennis inspires and equips young people and those who guide them.  You can follow him on Facebook and Twitter!