By Guest Blogger Camila Dos Santos

Helping your high schooler plan for life after graduation is stressful on the entire family. Many parents may find themselves worrying about their child’s future, especially if attending a traditional college is not a part of the plan. It can be hard for parents to accept that their children’s hopes and dreams may not align with their own. It’s important for parents of teens to consider the following:

A planned gap year can be beneficial.

For years, there’s been a stigma associated with taking a gap year, but for many students, a carefully planned gap year can lead to a better sense of purpose and a positive impact on academic performance. Spending time working full-time or enrolling in a service organization can help young adults develop additional skills that help prepare them for the real world. This is the case whether that includes graduating from a traditional college or not. Time spent building real-life skills can prove to be helpful for whatever your teen decides to do next.

Every child’s timing differs.

Many high school seniors may not be emotionally or academically prepared to find success at a traditional college. Students who lack the academic skills or independence may need additional time to foster those skills. Enrolling in community college courses, or working on academic skills with a tutor, may be what your teen needs. There is no rush to make a big decision right after graduation. Taking the time to fine-tune academic skills can help students find more success at the post-secondary level.

Skilled workers are in high demand.

America is facing a shortage in skilled workers and tradespeople. Yet American high school students are still taught that attending a traditional college is the way to long term success. As such, traditional-college enrollment rates in the US have risen by nearly 4 million since 2000. This presents an opportunity for the student whose plan isn’t to attend a traditional college. They incur no debt, make good money, and have the potential for professional growth. The path to trade school can be a path to a fulfilling career, entrepreneurship, and personal and financial success.

Arranging for alternative experiences can help your teen figure it out.

Many high school seniors are unaware of the many opportunities that are available to them outside of a traditional college experience. Helping your teen set up a job shadowing experience, or an internship can help them sort through their options.

Guilford County offers many paths for students in Greensboro and High Point who are not on the traditional path to college, such as the Guilford Apprenticeship Program (GAP), where students can actually get paid for time spent in class, while receiving hands-on job experiences and earning an Associate degree.

Winston-Salem offers a similar program, LEAP, which allows students to earn college credits while conducting on-the-job training through a partner employer or business. Other ideas can include connecting your teen with college counselors or a life coach, and scheduling tours at both traditional and vocational schools to help them determine the right fit for their future. Supporting your teen in identifying and seeking out these alternative opportunities shows them that you are on their side, while also ensuring that they are considering all of their options.

Show Support

It can be hard to accept that you do not share the same dreams for your teen as they do, but it is important to show them that they have your support and love no matter what they choose through healthy communication. Encouraging open discussions with your teenager will lay the groundwork for future discussions, which may come in handy if and when your teen’s plans change.

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