Call it “senior slump” or “senior slide”, many teens battle the urge to slack off toward the end of high school. It’s a challenging time for parents too, dealing with a moody teenager and the chaos of planning the move to college. However, unlike high school, this parenting gig doesn’t end.
What does “parent senioritis” look like?
You may be all too familiar with your kid “soiling the nest” during their final months at home. They’re irritable, acting out, over-confident or lacking their usual motivation. (Or, all of the above!) In addition, their grades may be slipping and it could be the first time they’re challenging your authority. Cue the teenage angst.
For parents, the collateral symptoms may include (but are not limited to): stress-induced greying or hair loss, anxiety and jaw pain from angry teeth gritting. Your latest hobby is dreaming up plans for your new sewing room (aka their bedroom). You also might be experiencing mixed emotions about your child leaving for college. It’s the first real step of independence for your kid, and that’s an exciting milestone. However, you also probably feel also feel a sense of loss because your relationship is at risk of changing.
It’s not just you – parent senioritis happens.
There’s a lot going on in life at the moment, for both you and your child, so it helps to take a step back and look at the whole picture. In just a short time you’re preparing for graduation, finalizing college plans, helping register for classes and decorating a dorm room. All that on top of your regular to-do lists, and you deserve some serious credit! Plus, many parents feel anxious about the uncertainties of the future. When nearly 1/3 of kids move back in with their parents, it’s normal to worry about your kid’s college journey. Those stressors take a toll on a person, and rightly so.
It also helps to understand the pressure your kid is facing. For the past 6 months they’ve been cranking out scholarship applications, applying for colleges and stressing to meet the deadlines. Now, they’re rushed to choose the right college, a major, their roommate and the list goes on. Keep in mind, your kid still has to raise their hand to use the bathroom, and now they’re suddenly supposed to make big life decisions. They may not feel ready for it. This is also their last chance to see most of their friends before starting college, while balancing their schoolwork and extracurriculars. It’s understandable if they’ve been a bit abrasive lately.
One more thing to consider is the winter blues. Seasonal Affective Disorder affects millions of students and parents this time of year and can be mistaken as senioritis, with mood changes and lethargy being common factors. It’s caused, in part, by a lack of sunlight during the winter months so, cross your fingers, it shouldn’t last much longer.
You’ve got about 22 weeks left.
Remember when you first dropped them off for preschool about 14 years ago, and cheerfully put on your best “you’ll be just fine” impression? It’s time to channel that optimism. With just a few months left until your kid leaves for college, your mission is to make this a smooth transition. You should continue to encourage your student to do their best and remind them their high school performance still affects the future. Even if they’re reluctant to admit it, they still need you and your guidance.
That said, it’s time to start to let go and hand over the reigns. Keep the basic structure (chores, curfews, allowance), but otherwise try to let them manage things on their own. Giving them a taste of autonomy now helps them make responsible choices later on. After all, you don’t want them to be that kid who goes wild when they’re on their own for the first time.
Senior year brings out the best and the worst in all of us. It’s easy to get caught up in the stress of it all, so remember to slow down and spend some quality time with your kiddo during this busy season. A much-deserved movie date or road trip might be the golden ticket to keeping things fun.