By guest blogger Scotti Weintraub, founder of Reframe Parenting
If your child has struggled in school and you’re nearing high school graduation (or feel it coming at you like a freight train in the not-too-distant future), I’m sure you’ve thought a lot about what comes next. And maybe you’ve been feeling some panic or uncertainty about what makes the most sense for your student.
You’re not alone!
Take a deep breath, and let’s talk alternatives — alternative opportunities and alternative ways of viewing these next steps.
Sometimes-Hard Reframes for Parents as Their Kids Reach Graduation
Looking at our kids with different lenses (I call them reframes!) gives us a peek into what’s hiding underneath our kids’ challenges — and our reactions to them, too. The same is true during times of big transition!
- We are not our kids. It can be difficult to remember that our kids are not a reflection of us or even our own needs. Each child is a unique human with unique strengths and needs. If we focus too much on how we would manage post-high school (“I went straight to college, so why would they waste time doing anything else?”), we miss the truth of who THEY are and what THEY need.
- Our kids’ struggles and their post-high school needs and choices aren’t reflections of our parenting. I’d write this one on a giant billboard if I could because it’s a hard one to internalize, and seeing their peers go off to college right away can compound the feelings. Their struggles, whatever they are, aren’t our fault or a measurement of our success as parents. Similarly, what’s right for them to do in this next chapter is not a reflection of your parenting. Good parents have kids who struggle. Good parents have good kids who may follow paths that are different from that of their peers.
- What’s right for your student immediately post-high school isn’t their entire journey. Rather, it’s just the beginning. If they aren’t ready for college right now or need a break, it’s not forever. They can defer college admissions to take a break. Or they can come back to it even later. There’s no strict timeline! And if they never pick college, that’s OK, too.
What Does Post-Graduation Success Look Like for Your Unique, One-of-a-Kind Kiddo?
What’s our No. 1 end goal as parents? My favorite answer is this: to set our children up for success as adults. It’s pretty simple, really. All our hard work, love, dedication, sleepless nights, and endless shuttling — it all comes down to launching them into a healthy and successful adulthood.
To get there, maybe what’s needed is to take some time off from formal schooling! They’ve been in school nonstop for 13 years, and for them, those years haven’t always been fun or filled with success. Why not take a breather and enjoy some fun and adventure (and learn some things along the way, too).
Here’s where we get to those glimmers of opportunity! Here are five post-graduation ideas for students who may need a different path:
- Gap Year. I’m a huge fan of gap years — especially for students who struggled in school. It’s a chance to learn new things without the pressures of the classroom, try out interests, embrace new experiences, and make new friends. Close to home or far afield, there are options for everyone. The structure and support of a program are helpful, too, for those who may not be quite ready to live on their own. The Gap Year Association is a great place to start for structured programs of all different lengths and locations.
- Volunteering. This falls under a gap year too, but volunteering is a great way to get experience, try out some things, and gain perspective on the world. Giving back feels good, too. Kids who have struggled in school often feel unsuccessful, so let’s give them a chance to shine in a meaningful way. Whether at home or somewhere abroad, there are many service options that make it easy to get started.
- AmeriCorps. This is also volunteering, but it deserves its own place on this list. Learn new skills, meet new people, and earn money toward college! The education award given to AmeriCorps members can only be used for future schooling (or paying existing student loans), so it’s built-in savings. AmeriCorps NCCC is a particularly good program for new high school grads because it’s designed for 18- to 26-year-olds and housing and food are provided.
- Working. Having a job is a great way to gain self-confidence, learn about life, and earn some money toward whatever comes next. Working doesn’t have to be long-term, either. Combined with some time traveling or volunteering, working can make for a great part of a gap year experience. Did you know that there are also opportunities to live and work abroad? Work as a ski instructor in South America, on a farm in New Zealand, or teach English in Asia — the options are endless (and some even include housing).
- Hands-on learning with internships or apprenticeships. Is your student interested in working outside? There are great conservation programs available across the United States (some are AmeriCorps programs, too!). Or learning about construction? Check out Youth Build. If they’re interested in learning a trade and getting real-world skills, have a look at the Job Corps (has income eligibility, and most programs provide housing!). Your local community colleges are other resources for workforce training and apprenticeship opportunities.
If you’re hearing about other post-graduation opportunities, check with your high school’s career counseling department. They may have information about local programs, be able to point you toward resources in your area, and share stories of other students who successfully transitioned after graduation to a non-college (at least for now) opportunity.
Want to learn more about reframing your parenting and supporting your struggling student? Reframe Parenting is here for you. Visit our website and download our free “Student Struggle Checklist,” and check out our blog for more useful tips and information.
Scotti Weintraub has dedicated more than 17 years to supporting other parents. She’s an accomplished community organizer and presenter who now specializes in helping other parents find the knowledge and resources they need to help their kids succeed when they’re struggling at school. When her own kids struggled and she couldn’t find the roadmap she wanted, Scotti channeled her inner researcher and got to work. With Reframe Parenting, she’s sharing her hard-won successes and strategies with parents to save both time and heartache. Reframe's bottom line? Every kid is amazing and deserves to succeed.