Senioritis? Keep Your Eyes on the Prize!
January is more than half over, February is a short month, plenty of people (myself included) are feeling unsure about the future of the world, anyway, and before you know it, your senior will be graduating from high school. Or, you know, not, if they’re not able to stay on course and resist the urge to succumb to senioritis. Even really dedicated students may find themselves on the downward slope of senior year, suddenly getting Cs instead of As. That would be bad, but not as bad as your kid failing a class they need to graduate. Basically, now is a good time to talk about this last semester of senior year of high school and make sure everyone understands what’s at stake.
This is not a good time to lose your mind, kids.
Fun fact #1
Colleges can and do rescind acceptances if they feel the student didn’t maintain “adequate academic progress.” That means if your kid fails a class because they blow it off after they get accepted to their dream school, they may indeed find themselves uninvited to join the freshman class. For some schools, that can even mean trouble if a grade drops from an A to a C. I’ve yet to see a college spell out the specifics of “adequate academic progress,” but every college asks for a final transcript, and if your kid doesn’t figure out until May that things didn’t go very well, their future could be in trouble.
Fun fact #2
Yes, high school students can make up classes in summer school, if need be, and they’ll graduate at the end of the summer. See above if you think this is a solution when a kid is planning to head off to college (likely their acceptance will be revoked). But aside from that, let’s say the plan is to work after high school—that will still be hard to do when stuck in summer school every day.
Fun fact #3
If your senior gets into any sort of legal trouble during this time period, they are likely to be tried as an adult (even if not 18 yet), and it may delay their high school graduation, and it will almost certainly mean any college acceptance will be rescinded.
In case it’s not clear, what I’m trying to say is: this is not a good time to lose your mind, kids.
But I could write another 10,000 words on this for the teens in question and it would fall on deaf ears, because—I don’t know if you know this—most teenagers already know everything! It’s true, so don’t try to tell them anything. They know. ‘Round here, that’s more like, “I knooooooooow, Moooooom!” (I bet that sounds familiar to many of you.) That would be a waste of time. This is for us parents, and how we can nudge our kids along the right path for a little bit longer.
The conundrum, for me, is that this is exactly the right time to start going hands-off; after all, pretty soon they’ll be out on their own, and if you treat even the last semester of school the way you always did (especially if that involves a fair amount of support/checking in/nagging). You do want to start sending the “I trust you to make the right decisions” message along with greater freedom, because the kids who don’t get to have that experience at home are the ones who end up with alcohol poisoning or worse once they get to school and taste freedom for the first time. You can’t treat the second semester of senior year like the first semester of freshman year. I mean, I suppose you could, but chances are excellent it wouldn’t go well.
Game Plan for the Rest of Senior Year
So here’s how we approach second semester of senior year in my house. (The first kid gave us a successful trial run so we’re doing it with the second one, too.)
Don’t assume these last few months will fly by without a hitch.
I trust you are handling your classes/grades appropriately, but also that you understand I will swoop in with hellfire and curtailing of privileges if it comes to my attention that you’ve decided to stop working. The message I repeat to my kids during this time is consistent and probably annoying: “Finish strong because you’re almost done and you will kick yourself if you don’t.” You’re so tired of shenanigans at the high school? I get it, but you’re almost done. You’re tired of working hard and you can probably slide by on that test with a lower grade? Probably, but the time you regain today by blowing off studying be wasted later as you feel disappointed in yourself for not finishing strong after you worked so hard for so many years. My feeling is that this is a good time to give kids more freedom, but if they take it and blow off school, what makes anyone think they’ll be successful in college?
I absolutely want you to enjoy this time and have new adventures and great privileges, as long as you do so responsibly. As long as school is being taken care of, sure, this is a time when you can stay out later, go places I might not have said okay to in the past, have more freedom, etc. This does not include breaking the law in any way—you’re never going to hear “kids will be kids!” or any other such minimizing of illegal behavior from me—or engaging in behavior which is dangerous. Freedom is earned alongside responsibility. (Ideally we’ve been increasing those freedoms and responsibilities along the way, anyway, but if you haven’t, now is a good time to get on that.) This includes, but is not limited to, having to listen to your mother talk to you about things like sex and drugs—yes, again—because opportunities are going to present themselves to you and I want to be sure your eyes are open when they do.
Listen, the truth is that my kids are pretty risk-averse. We’ve certainly had our challenges in raising them, but other than some, “But I don’t wanna” attitude senior year, this is not a huge issue for us. But I can tell you I wish I had a nickel for every classmate of theirs I heard about making truly terrible choices during this time, and it was the “good” kids more than anyone else. Don’t assume these last few months will fly by without a hitch. Make your expectations clear, encourage your kid to focus on what’s ahead, and then cross your fingers.