How to support teens during the transition from high school to college or adult life

The transition from high school to college or adult life is an exciting and challenging time for any student. For mothers and fathers, it can also be a time of worry and stress.


The good news is that there are many things you can do to support your children and students in this important step toward independence and responsibility. Here are some ideas to support teens during this transition.


Start talking about transition early


It’s important to start talking about the transition to college or adult life early, as most of the time it’s until young people are in their senior year or junior year of high school that it is brought up, both in the sphere of the family, as well as from the orientation processes of educational institutions.


Talking about the change in reality that the arrival of university life and adulthood implies, helps young people to mentally prepare for the change, while also helping fathers and mothers to be prepared to face the detachment that their offspring departure entails.


Talking with children and students about their plans for the future and helping them investigate education and work options creates an environment in which young people will feel supported, accompanied and confident in making the best decisions with the support of significant adults around them.

Credits: Ketut Subiyanto

Help them develop time management skills


Time management is a key skill students need to be successful in college and later life, but it is also one of the most difficult to master, especially in an age of distractions and procrastination seem to be the rule.


Helping your children and students to better manage time has important positive repercussions in areas such as the effectiveness of their study habits, the establishment of reasonable times and deadlines for tasks and projects, and the identification of possible distractions and the most effective in avoiding them.


Encourage independence and responsibility


As adolescents prepare for college and adult life, it is important to foster their independence and responsibility, as they will turn less often to significant adults for guidance, advice, or support. In this process of gradually detaching themselves from home, young people will try to do things on their own and, precisely for this reason, they must be given the tools to be able to make free, spontaneous and autonomous decisions most appropriate for them.


Allow them to make decisions about their future and their education, and give them the opportunity to experiment with different interests and activities, so that they have enough evidence to feel that they are the ones who have the reins of their lives in their hands. It is true that as parents and teachers we always experience the fear of letting them make their decisions and fail, but we must understand that their mistakes are part of the process in which they will become aware of the importance of assuming life responsibly, as well as the inevitability of the consequences of their acts and omissions.

Credits: Yan Krukau

Help them build support networks


College life can be stressful and overwhelming for young people. Help your kids build a support network before they start college. Make sure they have friends, family, or mentors they can trust and turn to for support. It is also possible to include other members of the community, such as career counselors, spiritual leaders, and mental health professionals, among others.


Some universities offer student support programs, such as academic tutoring, career guidance, and mental health services. Encourage your children and students to take advantage of these resources, as they sometimes avoid doing so in order not to pose as weak or “nerdy” in front of their fellow students and friends. Despite how much progress has been made in the paradigm shift on this issue, professional advice and guidance remain taboo among a large part of the population.

Teach problem solving skills


Adult life comes with many challenges, so it is important to teach your children and students problem-solving skills, not only academic or theoretical, but also practical everyday situations. Many significant adults strive to avoid situations for our children and students that may cause them difficulty, discomfort, risk or frustration, without thinking that our good intentions are depriving them of the opportunity to learn to solve the challenges that life brings to all of us. continually.


Help them identify problems and find creative and effective solutions in situations of the reality that surrounds them. linking them with decision-making about the challenges that arise at school and at home. You can also encourage them and give them the opportunity to learn to evaluate those situations in which it will be essential for them to seek resources and support when they face difficult challenges, since it is also important that they learn to identify which problems they can solve alone and which not.


Encourage career and job exploration


College and adult life are times of exploration and discovery, so it’s important to encourage your children and students to explore different careers and jobs before making final choices about their vocation. You can help them find internship and volunteer opportunities, and encourage them to talk with professionals in different fields to learn more about career options.


Although it is a good experience that they are linked in some way with the work and professional activities of their parents, so that they know and understand the daily reality of their parents, it is important to avoid biases or conditioning focused on following the “family vocation” and  dedicate themselves to the “family business”, since on many occasions these ideas are implanted unconsciously, without it being their true vocation.


The attitude of wanting kids to follow the path that their parents could not should also be avoided, since it forces them to study the profession that they were unable to take at the time, ignoring the true vocations and aptitudes that the son or daughter may have, which ends up making them, in turn, experience at some point the feeling of not having followed their own dreams.


Give them spaces to develop communication skills


Communication is an essential skill in college and adult life, so it’s important to help your children and students develop the skills they need to understand others and make themselves understood. The excessive need to protect them makes us sometimes avoid interacting with others to avoid discomfort, without realizing that we are filling them with insecurity and dependency; Hence, children and young people are unable to talk to another person for something as simple as asking the person who attends a store to attend to them.


Additionally, it is an increasingly frequent fact that young people arrive at the university with serious deficiencies in their reading comprehension and written production skills, since it is advisable to evaluate at what level our kids and students are, to take the necessary measures to improve their communication skills.


Help them develop self-management skills


College life involves a great deal of freedom and responsibility. Help your children develop self-management skills before they reach college. Teach them how to manage their time, set priorities, generate plans and manage money, and deal with difficult situations effectively. Encourage your children to make independent decisions and take responsibility for their actions.


Many young people end up dropping out of the university or having difficulties in their first work experiences, not because of a lack of skills or motivation, but because they do not manage basic skills such as time management, prioritization of activities, reasonable use of resources, among others.


The development of self-management skills can become a protective factor against university dropout, the appearance of anxiety episodes and low academic results, while improving aspects such as tolerance for frustration, resilience and self-concept based on obtaining achievements.


Encourage the practice of recreational activities and hobbies


University is a time for exploration and discovery, not only in terms of future professional practice, but also in terms of acquiring new habits and customs.


Help your kids discover their interests and hobbies and encourage the exploration of different activities to take advantage of free time. Taking into account how overwhelming and stressful the university stage can be, having productive leisure activities can become an important element in preventing stress and anxiety, among other psychological well-being disorders.

Credits: Elijah O'Donnel

Celebrate their achievements

The transition from high school to college is an exciting and often stressful time for young people. Be sure to celebrate their accomplishments and support them throughout the process. Celebrate your successes, big and small, and remember that even obstacles can be opportunities for growth and learning.

Given the level of demand typical of most university degrees, on many occasions simply passing an evaluation of a particularly complex subject becomes an important milestone that they want to share with us. It is also the case that our kids and students celebrate the acquisition of skills typical of adult life, such as when they call us to tell us that they did their first bank errand or prepared their first dinner without having to call the fire department; for us it may be an everyday thing, but for them it is an unlocked achievement, as they say in the world of video games.

Show them that you will always be there for them

Of all the advice that can be given on this subject, which is especially addressed to fathers and mothers, perhaps the most relevant of all is to be and show that we are available to them 24 hours a day and 365 days a year.

One of the greatest reasons for concern and fear among young people, while they perceive that they are gaining more and more autonomy and independence, is precisely that this fact seems to distance them from their parents. As they make decisions and act more and more according to their free will, they feel that the relationship and communication with their parents is becoming more and more spaced out.

Maintaining regular contact, opening spaces for conversation, showing interest in their daily activities and demonstrating that we are aware of their needs and concerns are some ways to avoid creating the perception that the independence they are gaining necessarily implies a distancing or a lack of interest from significant adults towards their things.

Ultimately, making sure they are prepared for financial and emotional independence, setting clear expectations, fostering self-management skills, and establishing a strong support network are just a few of the ways we can help our children and students succeed at school. college and into adult life. By being aware of the challenges and opportunities this transition presents, we can help our youth build a strong foundation for their future and support them on their journey to independence and success.


What other strategies do you consider appropriate to accompany our children and students in their transition to university life? Leave us your opinion in the comment box.

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