With spring break just around the corner, the end of the school year is within sight. As parents, teachers, and mentors of high schoolers, this should be a thoughtful time of year for all of us. Are the kids in our lives prepared for the real world after graduation? If not, what’s high on our “to do” lists? If our students are currently juniors or sophomores, are they already preparing for the next step? What kind of life are they envisioning after high school?
Let’s be honest. When we contemplated having children, what did most of us think about? Likely our minds were filled with images of babies, toddlers, and elementary school-aged kids. Visions of their first day home, their first steps, their first words, their first ride without training wheels, their first day of school, Little League games, and dance recitals gave us a sense of joyful anticipation of what the future held.
I’d be willing to bet that very few of us pictured a teenager being launched from our loving arms into the real world. It’s seems so far down the road that it really doesn’t enter our minds at the outset. After all, we have SO much time before we get to that point, right? Then reality hits—and they’re off—just like the blink of an eye.
If we did think about the teen years, we probably thought about Friday night football games. We might have pictured ourselves helping them with homework and projects, or we may have imagined helping them learn to drive their first car, or seeing them off to senior prom.
Sure, those are important hallmarks of adolescence in American culture. But, if those cultural images were as far as our imaginations were able to take us, something was missing.
In our work with educators, youth mentors, and business and community leaders, we are hearing an overwhelming and urgent cry. They tell us the current generation of young adults, generally speaking, is emerging into the world grossly underprepared to succeed. Consider these facts:
- One in four high school students fails to graduate, according to the Washington Post.
- In a ranking of 18 industrialized nations, the United States ranked ninth in college enrollment and dead last in college completion.
- The average current teen jobless rate, as of this writing, is 23.7%.
- Over and over we hear that many employers prefer to hire older job applicants, because they are more reliable, better mannered, more motivated, and have a stronger work ethic.
How did we get to this current state of affairs? And what can we parents be doing to equip and empower our teens for success in the real world and reverse this course? As parents, it is imperative to provide our children with the wings they need to thrive in the real world. That means strategically equipping them for independent adulthood, starting now! So, gather the tools you need for your toolkit to prepare YOU (and your children!) for the ride ahead.
Do you have a young person that you are preparing for “launch time?” How are you ensuring they’re properly equipped? Do you feel “ready?” If you haven’t yet, check out our book, Parenting for the Launch, for an arsenal of easily applicable advice for you and your teen as you position yourselves for this upcoming milestone.