‘Tis the season for high school graduations. Whether your high school senior will be walking the stage this year, or if you see that day coming up quick in a couple of years, now is the time to be thinking through how to make their launch into college, trade school, or career as smooth as possible.

Get in Those Life Skills

Yes, this includes making sure your kids know how to clean a kitchen, maintain a vehicle, and run a load of laundry without turning everything pink. University and extended education program faculties across the country have been, for several years now, reporting that students arriving on their campuses have a significant gap in knowing how to take on some of the basics of household and personal maintenance. But life skills should also include the soft skills of conversation, how to conduct themselves on phone calls, and how to troubleshoot well. And that’s an area that has many company leaders concerned, as they see graduates, both high school and college, who don’t have the interpersonal skills needed to thrive in the job market.

“Adaptability, problem solving, creativity, influence, drive, empathy and collaboration. What I’ve observed is that those things aren’t being practiced by college graduates,” says Jim Link, CHRO of Randstad North America, a leading staffing company, in Atlanta.1 SHRM, the Society for Human Resource Management, a non-profit devoted to creating better workplaces and to serve as a thought leader in the management space, has found that “nearly 3 in 4 employers say they have a hard time finding graduates with the soft skills their companies need.”2

So, yes, help you kids make decisions about the educational plans post college. Help them sort the advantages and disadvantages of majors. But also keep in mind that the perfect school with the perfect degree won’t help much if you and your child haven’t worked toward life skills and soft skills before they launch.

Encourage Independence

The years leading up to high school graduation are a great time to be giving your child greater and greater independence. For kids who only experience a level of independence once they reach college, it can become fodder for some reckless behavior since it’s the first time they’ve been able to spread their wings. It’s better to give them bigger measures of freedom while they are still in your home, with your guidance and counsel to walk them through challenges, than to be monitoring them constantly and to then unleash them into the college environment.

And even if that feels like a difficult thing to do, legally you’re going to be faced with stronger levels of separation from your child’s medical and school information. Under both HIPPA (which protects your child’s medical privacy once they reach the age of 18) and FERPA (which protects their college records once they reach 18) you won’t have the same kind of access to information you’ve grown accustomed to having. Establishing that your child will have a level of autonomy for their health and scholastic choices is a great reminder to all parents that independence is coming, whether we feel ready or not.

A study completed by research scientist Alison Head of the University of Washington revealed that although college graduates are equipped for positions in their field and often find employment, they struggle with life skills such as money management and household repairs.

Give Them Some Space

Check out these recent statistics from Psychology Today:

  • 71% of parents send at least 3 texts per day to their child at college.
  • About half of parents call their child at college more than three times per day.
  • 50% of parents say they communicate the same amount with their child even though the child is out of the home.
  • 43% of parents are Facebook friends with their college age child

Technology and cell phone service may have changed a lot since you yourself launched into college and the adult world. It’s easier than ever now to stay in almost constant contact, even if your kid is now living a couple of states over. There are benefits to having this kind of accessibility, keeping relationships closer and in sharing more of each other’s everyday life. However, having some space is an important component of becoming more independent and growing more confident in handling situations and challenges. Anne K. Fischel, Ph.D., and Tristan Gorrindo, M.D. write, “This level of constant communication may complicate the process of separation that normally occurs when a young adult moves away from home.”3 They suggest setting rules for communication, how often you’ll be in touch.

Their Faith Journey Is Theirs…Not Yours

We want our kids to have strong faith, to make good moral and ethical choices, to make spiritual discipline and relationships part of their lives. And, as parents, having some lived some life at this point, we know the heartache and implications when someone doesn’t maintain a devoted relationship with God, either through our own experiences or through the stories of others. As our kids get closer to leaving our homes, it can feel very vulnerable to turn over the reins of what their spiritual practices will be.

But, it’s necessary. And important.

We can teach, train, model, and love our kids well through our own faith journeys. And they will now be choosing what their next steps will be. At the end of the day, they must forge their own relationship with God; it’s not something we can maintain or manage for them. To let them know that we respect their journey, that we’re praying for them, that we are there for them if they have questions or challenges, that allows us to remain engaged without trying to control something that is no longer ours to drive. Yes, our older high school and college age kids may still be relying on us and may not be fully independent financially, but their faith decisions will be their own. Keep the dialog open, listen, support, and love them through their experiences.

And so I am sure confident that God, who began this good work in you, will carry it on until it is finished on the Day of Christ Jesus.

Philippians 1:6

A Gap Year Can Be A Good Thing

While many parents see high school graduation as the signal fire for their child to head into a committed four-year university experience, a gap year could actually be a better fit for your child. College education is expensive, and if your child is needing some more time to make decisions about their degree path and future vocational plans, it makes far more sense for them to take some time before committing those college dollars. And researchers have found significant other benefits to gap years as well.

  • American universities say that students who took a gap year achieve 23% higher grades than students who went straight to college.
  • 60% of gap year students said that they took their academics more seriously after taking a year out from education.
  • 60% of gap year students said that a year out helped them decide their major and realize their future career direction.
  • 90% of students who take a gap year return to college within a year.
  • 88% of people who took a year out said that they thought their gap year added to their employability.4

And here’s a new stat on gap years that is significant. A new study from SimpsonScarborough has found that 40% of high school graduates are considering a gap year, a number that is significantly higher than in years past. Even at the elite Harvard University, the faculty is reported that 20% of the accepted freshman class is choosing to defer for a year. Everything from the pandemic to the embracing of remote work and education plays into this new upswing.5 So if your student is considering a gap year, they will be among many of their peers.

Your Student Can Stay on Your HealthShare Membership Until The Day They Turn 23

Altrua HealthShare can be a powerful way to save money for your family’s budget, helping ease the financial cost of upcoming college tuition. It can be an important part of your overall financial plan as you look ahead to the education expenses. Your child can stay on your family membership until their 23rd birthday; after that time, they will need to enroll for their own membership.

And remember, your 18 to 22 year old needs to sign the Statement of Standards with Altrua HealthShare, to verify that they understand the shared values of those on the Membership and the need to live within those values in order for eligible medical needs to be shared in.

It’s an exciting time to be getting your kids ready for the next season of their lives as they enter those final laps of the high school experience. And your efforts in helping them gain life skills and extending their independence with healthy boundaries and expectations will go a long way in helping them launch successfully into their post high school plans.

Julie Lyles Carr is a best-selling author, podcaster, and entrepreneur living in Austin, Texas, with her husband Mike Carr. They have eight kids, two unfriendly cats, and an antique dachshund.

1 https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/employee-relations/pages/employers-say-students-arent-learning-soft-skills-in-college.aspx
2 https://www.shrm.org/about-shrm/Pages/default.aspx
3 https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-digital-family/201207/5-ways-avoid-becoming-helicopter-parent-you-send-your-child-college?collection=108718
4 https://www.denvergapyear.com/new-blog/6-incredible-gap-year-statistics-that-prove-the-doubters-wrong?gclid=Cj0KCQjwp86EBhD7ARIsAFkgakge01p2k0bnsz5CV3_ceUbrUa8vWpfM0W_gyIfhFDqP8sV3prfNi70aAiHkEALw_wcB
5 https://www.insidehighered.com/admissions/article/2020/08/10/survey-40-percent-freshmen-may-not-enroll-any-four-year-college?utm_source=Inside+Higher+Ed&utm_campaign=cc6f8fdf0a-DNU_2020_COPY_02&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_1fcbc04421-cc6f8fdf0a-199137489&mc_cid=cc6f8fdf0a&mc_eid=d36e5d3efc