Intersection of Life and Faith

Next Stop College: 10 Things to Help Your Kids through Senior Year

  • Betsy de Cruz Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
Next Stop College: 10 Things to Help Your Kids through Senior Year

Parenting a college-bound high school senior is like running an obstacle course; just when you make it through one challenge, another presents itself. Between SAT testing, college applications, and preparing for graduation, our kids are going through what may be the most stressful year of their lives so far. The only ones more stressed out than high school seniors are their parents.

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  • 1. Pray for Them

    1. Pray for Them

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    More than anything, your senior needs you to pray for him. Juggling the college application process with his academic load at school may be the greatest challenge he has faced yet. Many high school seniors also take advanced placement classes to earn college credit or work a part-time job to save money for their education. Nothing you can do for your child all year long is more important than praying for him and with him.

    Scripture reminds us, “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective” (James 5:16b). So invest in your child’s future by praying for his spiritual growth, that he will learn to seek God through personal habits of prayer and Bible reading. Pray that God would reveal Himself to your child in new ways this year, strengthen his faith, and equip him for the future.

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  • 1. Pray for Them

    2. Encourage Their Spiritual Growth

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    Your teen’s last year in high school presents a unique time in her spiritual growth. She’s still living at home under the direction of her parents who can encourage her in her relationship with God, yet she also needs to develop her own habits and disciplines of seeking Him.

    The growth your child experiences this year will lay a foundation for walking with God through college and throughout her whole life. No matter how busy your child gets, encourage her to continue church attendance and establish a personal quiet time habit if she hasn’t already. Make regular times for your family to discuss Scripture and pray together. Talk often about your own relationship with God and ask your teen what she is learning as well.

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  • 1. Pray for Them

    3. Keep a Healthy Perspective

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    One thing our kids do not need is for us to pressure them because they are already under enough pressure themselves. It’s easy for a high school senior to imagine his whole life is riding on the decisions he’ll make this year. He assumes if he doesn’t get into his dream college, he’ll crash and burn. While we need to encourage our kids to make wise decisions and pursue excellence, we also need to teach them to keep a healthy perspective. Ultimately, God is in control of their lives. If they are following Him, He won’t allow them to miss His best for their future.

    Our son wrote several essays, took extra tests, and went to a personal interview to apply to a highly competitive, prestigious school. He was initially crushed when he received a rejection letter, but the very next day he got news of his acceptance into the honors program of another university. Three years later, we are sure he is much happier now than he would have been at his prestigious dream school.

    “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails” (Proverbs 19:21).

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  • 1. Pray for Them

    4. Encourage Them to Use a Planner

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    Encourage your child to develop his organizational skills. Let him choose the kind of planner that works for him, so he can keep track of assignment deadlines and other commitments. More visually oriented students may prefer a big wall calendar, so they can look at several months at a time and chart out their activities.

    During his senior year, he will have to juggle many tasks: school assignments, college applications, work, and extra-curricular activities. Any time management and planning skills your teen learns now will not only help him get through this year, but they will also set him up to experience more success his freshman year of college. 

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  • 1. Pray for Them

    5. Coach Them in Decision-Making

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    Your high school senior will probably make important decisions this year: whether to start college or take a gap year, what schools to apply to, and what to declare as his major. For parents, it gets tricky when we see our kids making decisions we disagree with, but it’s important to remember our role is to help them learn good decision-making skills rather than control their decisions.

    Ask questions; help them list their options and make a list of pros and cons for each one. Pray together for their decision and encourage them to ask God to guide them.

    The spring of my daughter’s senior year, she had a hard time deciding between a large state university near our home and a smaller Christian college on the other side of the country. We knew we couldn’t decide for her because if she ended up not liking the school we chose, we’d be the ones to blame. Instead, we talked and prayed with her for several weeks, and we applauded her when she made the decision herself.

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  • 1. Pray for Them

    6. Help Them Lighten Up and Stay Healthy

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    Making time for fun activities promotes mental health and wellness, so make sure your student doesn’t bury himself in work. (I know there’s little chance of that, but some overachievers might need reminding). What extracurricular activities does your student enjoy? This is his last chance to take advantage of them in high school. What fun, new elective would balance out his academic load with a new interest?

    Promote wellness skills of healthy eating, rest, and exercise, so that your student can learn lifelong habits of good health. In the long run, staying healthy and engaging in recreation will help your child improve his academic performance and handle stress.

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  • 1. Pray for Them

    7. Keep Tabs on College-Related Deadlines

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    Keeping track of deadlines related to university admissions can be overwhelming for your high school senior, especially if he’s applying to several colleges. He might appreciate help in walking through it.

    Even after the application process, the deadlines continue. It’s a good idea to keep tabs on dates related to applying for financial aid, housing deposits, and accepting or declining financial aid. The most important thing you can do as a parent is to work as early as possible with your child to file his Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Virtually all schools require it before they make an offer for financial aid, and this will help your child in his decision process.

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  • 1. Pray for Them

    8. Plan Out Graduation Events Ahead

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    High school graduation is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and it merits celebration. Your teen will have many fun social activities and events to look forward to while finishing his academic studies at the same time. Planning ahead helps avoid stress. When is the senior prom? When is the deadline to order graduation invitations?

    Discuss with your child ahead of time his expectations and wishes, as well as the family budget, so everyone can be on the same page. Will he need to get his hair cut before his senior picture is taken? What needs to happen before senior prom? When will you take your daughter shopping for a dress? Taking care of details ahead of time helps ensure you all enjoy these special events instead of panicking beforehand.

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  • 1. Pray for Them

    9. Family Time

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    Especially as graduation approaches, your child will be occupied with spending as much time as she can with her friends to celebrate and enjoy their “lasts” together. Make sure you also give priority to spending time together as a family, even if you have to “gently” encourage your teen to make that time.

    Make memories together. Have a special family night once a week. Play games or go to the movies. Go on a trip together. Have a special dinner at the end of the year to celebrate both graduation and the younger siblings completing one more school year. 

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  • 1. Pray for Them

    10. Support Your Child Through Discouragement

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    Do your utmost to be sensitive to your high school senior during times of struggle and anxiety. Be available to listen. She may experience disappointment if her dream college denies her admission or depression if she breaks up with her boyfriend the week before prom.

    Remember hidden stress and anxiety caused by social media. News of school shootings and disasters may cause your teen to feel fearful, anxious, or sad. Seek out opportunities to ask how she is doing and listen.

    Learn all you can about teen depression, so you will recognize symptoms like withdrawal, anger, and poor academic performance. Don’t hesitate to get help if your child experiences symptoms that last for more than two weeks.

    Coaching teens through their senior year means a lot of new responsibilities for parents, so when you start to feel overwhelmed, ask God for help. He has all the wisdom, power and love you need to help your senior cross the finish line. Don’t forget to have fun and enjoy the beauty of this season: “He has made everything beautiful in its time” (Ecclesiastes 3:11). Before you know it, your child’s senior year will be over, and that will be something to celebrate.

    Betsy de Cruz writes to encourage women to get more of God’s Word in, so they can live their faith out, especially when life gets bumpy and crazy. You can find Betsy on her blog, Faithspillingover.com, where she shares Bible study and prayer tips for distracted women, as well as encouragement for everyday faith and family. Subscribers to Betsy’s blog, receive 10 Days to More, a free guide with 10 devotional Bible study techniques. You can also find Betsy on Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram.

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