Preparing for Life After High School: A Parent’s Guide

By Gina Henschen — MA, LPCC

Preparing for life after high school can help your teen feel ready for the next chapter.

How to Prepare for Life After High School

Preparing for life after high school is a huge step for both parents and teens. Suddenly, your child is no longer a child, but rather a young adult—where on Earth did the time go?

This is an exciting time for everyone, but it can also feel overwhelming for both you and your child. Below are some tips on how to support your teen as they transition into life after high school, and how to support yourself as well.

Get to know your teen’s interests—and foster them.

Hopefully, this is something that takes place well before the final year of high school. Has your child shown interest or aptitude in a particular area? Maybe they’re gifted in anything creative or artistic, or perhaps they’re a whiz at math and science.

You can go one step further by brainstorming ways to hone skills in their particular areas of interest. For example, if your teen has a desire to help others, look for volunteer opportunities or part-time jobs at nursing homes, child care organizations, or animal shelters. Or if your teen has a particular aptitude in a specific subject, they can start to explore relevant career paths. O*NET has an excellent resource called the Interest Profiler, which helps identify personal interests and corresponding careers.

Discuss options.

What does your child want to do after graduation? There are a number of options they can pursue, including but not limited to:

  • Jumping straight into the workforce
  • Attending a 4-year, 2-year, or community college
  • Attending a vocational or tech school
  • Joining the military
  • Taking a gap year to work or travel

If your teen is interested in college, you’ll want to have them schedule some college tours to make sure they find the right fit. College is expensive, so be prepared to help them fill out the FAFSA to determine financial aid. Be aware that they may not even know how to start the application process; you might need to have them look up application requirements well in advance. Encourage your teen to meet with their school counselor as well, as they have a wealth of information on how to prepare for life after high school.

Helping your child learn financial literacy skills is just one thing you can do to prepare for life after high school.

Help develop independence.

While your teen may be learning plenty in high school, they may be missing out on key life skills such as how to pay bills or how to do basic household tasks like cooking or laundry. Preparing for life after high school includes preparing for everyday life, so don’t skip this step! Try teaching your teen some easy meals they can cook on their own or other life skills that will contribute to independence. Finances can be particularly stress-inducing, so you may want to work with your teen on budgeting and similar financial skills.

Affirm support.

Recognize that your teen may experience a range of emotions about entering young adulthood, from excitement to fear to overwhelm. Show your support by validating any emotions that come up and reminding them that you’re on their team. Your child may feel pressure to “have everything figured out,” so normalizing indecisiveness or uncertainty can go a long way.

Take care of yourself.

As graduation approaches, you may notice various emotions of your own bubbling up to the surface. Know that anything you are feeling is valid as this is a huge milestone and life transition for you, too! Now is a great time to sit down with loved ones and share your thoughts, hopes, fears, and emotions. If you need some additional support, it may be time to sit down with a therapist who can work with you during this life transition.

Sadly (or maybe not…), your teen won’t be in high school forever. The good news is that you can help set them up for a successful young adulthood by offering support during this important time.

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