Preparation for college or the workforce begins far before the senior year of high school. Freshman year requires many adjustments and is a good time to start learning and honing skills needed for the future. Academics, no matter the curriculum, are crucial, and students should consult with counselors to ensure they are taking needed courses. Beyond grades however, there are many life skills that are necessary to be successful in college and life beyond high school.
The following are a few examples of how parents can help their teenagers start to build those needed life skills:
1. Your freshman should keep her own calendar. Include not only academic deadlines and dates, but have her note sport and extracurricular meeting dates, doctor appointments, and anything else she has going on. You also should keep track of those dates because in the beginning she probably will miss a few. You can remind her, but eventually let her take over—and let her suffer the consequences of missing a deadline or an appointment.
2. In high school, many teenagers get involved in numerous activities: multiple sports, music, clubs, community service, a job. This is a good time to guide your teenager through priority management. Teenagers can become overwhelmed juggling too many activities on top of school work. Make it clear that academics come first. If school work starts to slide, then your teenager may need guidance in deciding which activities to let go. This can be hard for parents because the teenager may decide to give up something that a parent wants him to pursue—remember that this is the teenager’s life and he needs to make the decisions.
3. If you haven’t already done so, this is a good time to put your teenager on a budget and teach her financial responsibility. Make a list of the items you will pay for and those for which the teenager is responsible. Do this whether the teenager’s money is an allowance, from work she does for you, or from an outside part-time job—and stick to the plan. This is a good time to show your teenager your household expenses and how you budget.
4. Provide opportunities for your teenager to improve his communication skills. During family gatherings or when friends are around, ask an adult to start conversations with your teen, asking about the teen’s activities, interests, or views. Teens need to learn to communicate face-to-face instead of relying on texting or social media outlets. Also encourage your teen to ask questions as that is a good way to start networking and building contacts. Remind them to get into the habit of checking email too.
This list is a good start. It will grow as your teenager ages and as you give her graduated responsibility. Keep reminding yourself that the goal is to help your teenager be ready for success in college and careers beyond high school.
Ferah Aziz is a college coach with launchphase2. Visit www.launchphase2.com/ or call 720-340-8111 to learn more about coaching for college bound students, and success coaching for college students. P. Carol Jones is the author of “Toward College Success: Is Your Teenager Ready, Willing, and Able.” Visit www.towardcollegesuccess.com to read excerpts and to follow her blog.