published Thursday, August 18th, 2011

Upton: Treat your high-school senior with respect, love

It's finally here. The years have flown by, and you can't believe the child you reluctantly took to kindergarten is starting his or her senior year in high school.

I know. They just don't seem ready to be adults. You wish they had at least one more year in your care. You hope they attend the school you're most comfortable with -- it just happens to be across the street -- and choose the major you feel is best for them. After all, you've known what they'd be good at since they played their first make-believe games, right?

If you're not careful, though, this year will be gone in a flash, filled with sports events, school trips and exciting social experiences.

Time is precious at this point. Here are some focus points for the next few months:

n Help them finish strong. Set academic goals early. Have your teen write them out and place them where they can be seen daily. There's still time to improve on grades, but energy is waning and distractions are prevalent this year.

  • Plan for individual time. Perhaps you and your senior can take a short trip together to a place neither of you have ever been before. Plan a few special nights together throughout the year just to check in.

  • Dream together. Try to keep an open mind when your senior tells you some of his or her ideas about the future. Rather than discourage what may sound a little unrealistic at first, encourage them by offering more options, suggesting plan Bs, and helping them stay organized. Create a college or skills training notebook with them and visit a couple of schools. Talk about money management, help them open a bank account, and have your senior be responsible for paying a simple bill. Let them know that this is great practice for the responsibilities of adulthood.

  • Deal with the tough stuff. You and your teen may be engaged in a long and exhausting battle of the wills. Your home might be characterized by arguments, discipline problems and discord. Try to resolve what you can before your child flies the coop. This year, choose your battles wisely. Enlist the help of a counselor, family friend, or other trusted third party to help improve the lines of communication. Ask for and offer forgiveness.

  • Say the important things. I know you think they already know, but tell your child all the things you like about them, how they've impacted your life, what you've learned from them. Remind them that you believe in them and are proud of them. Compliment them on things they've done well.

  • Let them go. It may be tempting to bribe them into staying home or threaten to cut off college aid if they choose a school too far from your protective reach. However, when the time finally comes, try to let them go gracefully. Then sit back, take a deep breath and congratulate yourself on a job well done.

Tabi Upton, MA-lpc is a therapist at CBI Counseling Center and founder of the self help website www.chattanoogacounselor.com. Email her at tabiupton@bellsouth.net.

about Tabi Upton...

Tabi Upton, MA-LPC is a therapist at New Beginnings Counseling Center.

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