Most teens feel a little anxious about life after high school. For teens who have struggled in school or socially, those feelings can be more intense. Frequent experiences with setbacks and challenges in the past can create greater fears about the future.
Talking through those fears with your child can help relieve some of the anxiety. It can also be a self-esteem booster.
Teens don’t always want to talk about their emotions, though — especially with their parents or caregivers. These conversation starters can give you a way to open the lines of communication. Even if your teen doesn’t respond immediately, it reminds your child that you’re always there for support.
Fear #1: Not getting into college
Your message: You have multiple options to consider. It’s important to look at ones that fit your needs, strengths, and interests.
How you can say it: “I know you’re worried that your test scores and grades aren’t good enough for college. But there are many schools out there, and many types of schools to think about. No matter what, you’ll have good options to choose from.”
“The important thing is that the college you go to is a good fit for you. Are you ready to start making a list of schools? I can do that with you if you want.”
Fear #2: Leaving home and being independent
Your message: You have what it takes, even if you’re scared and think you don’t. Becoming independent is a process.
How you can say it: “There’s a lot to take care of when you’re on your own. I can understand if you’re worried about that. But we’ve already worked on many of the skills you need, and you’ll learn more as you go.”
“Before you go, we’ll figure out who you can go to for help with things that come up. And remember, I’m still here to help, too!”
Fear #3: Starting college, and failing
Your message: The work may be hard and take some getting used to, but you don’t have to do this without support. You may make mistakes, but that’s the way you learn what works and what doesn’t.
How you can say it: “College is a completely new and unfamiliar experience. I understand if you’re worried you might have a hard time. But you’ve learned how to speak up for what you need, and there’s support available to you, too. And know that if this doesn’t work out the way you hoped, you can talk to me, and I’ll help you figure out a new plan.”
Fear #4: Starting work, and failing
Your message: Going to work full time is an adjustment. If the first job doesn’t work out, you will have learned more about yourself and how you work best.
How you can say it: “It’s a big change, going from high school into the work world. But you’ve had part-time job experiences already, and you have shown how capable you are. Why don’t I help you with the job-hunting process since this is your first time looking for a full-time job?”
Fear #5: Choosing the “wrong” career path
Your message: It helps to know what you’re interested in and good at. But it’s also important to know you can always make another choice and keep exploring options.
How you can say it: “I know it’s scary to think about supporting yourself and choosing what you want to do for the rest of your life. But you don’t have to decide right now. I’ll be there to help you think about the steps to start that journey. There are lots of different types of careers. If one isn’t a good fit, you can always try something else.”
Fear #6: Not making friends or having a social life
Your message: Starting a new phase of life often requires making new friends. That can be tough. But the new friends you meet at work or at college will share many of your interests.
How you can say it: “I know it’s hard to leave your friends behind and make new ones. Adjusting to life with roommates or living in a dorm can be hard, but making friends is about finding people who enjoy the same things you do. If you want to make a list of what you love to do, I can look for places where people get together to pursue those interests.”
Teens often worry about getting a job or into college, and having a social life.
Talking about these fears can help steer your child on a positive path.
Even when teens don’t want to talk, hearing from you reminds them you’re there for support.
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About the author
About the author
Amanda Morin is the author of “The Everything Parent’s Guide to Special Education” and the former director of thought leadership at Understood. As an expert and writer, she helped build Understood from its earliest days.