Over 33,000 students will graduate from Arkansas High Schools this year, according to the ADE Data Center. Even more students will finish their coursework through homeschooling, private schools and co-ops in the state. The transition that awaits a student as they cross the graduation stage is one of the most important transitions in their lives. In many ways, these students are graduating from more than just high school. They are graduating from a life and a schedule that has been somewhat routine, predictable and charted for them into an unknown. Below, are five ways parents can help guide their high school senior into his or her next season of life.
Ask them how they are feeling.
I often find that students oscillate between excited and nervous about their transition from high school into whatever is next. This is natural. Talk to your student about their fears and hesitations, as well as their excitements and ambitions.
Talk to them about your transition from high school.
Having done ministry on college campuses for over a decade, I have noticed one factor that significantly contributes to healthy relationships between students and their parents. Those parents who have had honest conversations with their students about their own young-adult years often have the privilege of guiding their students through their young-adult decisions. I have found that students who have never heard of the temptations, struggles and stupid decisions of their parents are often hesitant to come to their parent when they are tempted, struggling or have made a stupid decision. A parent’s ability to guide their student through the crucial young adult years begins long before those young adult years begin. As a parent of faith, share your testimony with your student early and often. Your example, whether good or bad, can only guide them if they are familiar with it.
Expose them to adult mentors.
Several research projects have shown that exposing students to adult Christian mentors outside their home is one of the most significant factors contributing to a student staying connected to their faith in their young-adult years. Help your student get connected to adult mentors who can be examples of faithfulness to them.
Help them make informed plans.
Your student has dreams and aspirations. Help them make God-honoring plans to achieve their goals. I can remember meeting a student during his first week of classes. He shared with me how excited he was to be an engineer. I was the first to tell him that our university did not have an engineering program; he transferred the next semester. Help your student identify a roadmap to get where they want to go. Do they need to enroll in college, go straight to the workforce or consider serving in the military? There are great options out there for graduating high school seniors.
Encourage them to make spiritual decisions.
As your student transitions from high school, help them make spiritual decisions as well as practical decisions. Put your student in positions where they need to consider their own faith. As your student is considering a college, ask them how they can get connected to a church and campus ministry in that college town. Help your student consider how their faith could develop as they embark on this new journey.