What a year it has been!  My daughter graduated from high school spring of 2022, and in the fall, she moved away and enrolled in a Master Medical Esthetician program.

Was this the life I had always envisioned for her? Not really. We had dreamed of a more traditional path to college, but now, as I see her finally thriving, I am hopeful and happy for her future.

What made the difference?

Almost exactly one year ago, I wrote about how our family was beginning to support Hadley as she began her journey. (See that article below.)

During that time period, I found this framework from the Search Institute particularly helpful about how to better connect with the young people in our lives. I gleaned many helpful and important tips on becoming more deeply connected to our teenagers by Expressing Care, Expanding Possibilities, Providing Support, Sharing Power, and Expanding Possibilities.

If you are similarly helping a young person make a big decision, I would recommend checking it out.

I sat down with Hadley for a brief update about her life and how we, as parents, can better align ourselves as we learn to share power with our teenagers as they make big decisions in their lives.

My daughter is a senior in high school and is struggling with all the big questions about what to do post-graduation. Truthfully, how many of us really knew what we wanted to do when we were 17 years old?

Share Power.

In order to build trusting and healthy relationships with our teens, we should respect them and take them seriously while including them in decisions where they are impacted. We have always tried to do these things in our family. However, it can be  more difficult to take it a step further. How can we collaborate and let our daughter solve problems to reach goals? How can we let her take the lead? 

Most parents can relate! When our kids are young, we can tell them what to do in most aspects of their lives. Suddenly, my husband and I are faced with an often-unmotivated teenager who doesn’t know her direction. Now we find ourselves trying to guide her in making those decisions herself while also providing support. Along the way, we are also learning to accept and respect her decisions — even though we may not agree with them.

Expand Possibilities.

My husband and I are college-educated, and we always assumed our kids would follow the same path. However, my daughter is creatively minded: She loves the arts and skincare. A year ago, I took her on college tours to explore the arts programs at a few different universities, which were met with lackluster enthusiasm. She has since applied to and received acceptance into all of these programs.

I would have been fairly easy to urge her along —  but at what cost? So last week, we did a deeper dive into her passions and decided to tour esthetician schools. The moment we walked through the doors of her first spa, she lit up. And for the first time, she seemed really excited about her post-graduation possibilities.

Nothing has been decided. Right now, we’re crunching numbers, figuring out financial aid, and, most importantly, doing some soul-searching. My husband and I are no longer in the driver’s seat and are trying our best to support our daughter from the passenger seat and not the back — because no one likes opinionated backseat drivers! 

The biggest change I’ve felt these last few months is that I’m no longer looking to her future with anxiety and fear but rather hope as I learn to patiently let her work it out at her own pace.

Forward Together Tip: Holding it Loosely

Sometimes making tighter connections with teens means loosening your grip. When your teen is faced with a big transition, sharing your advice and ideas can be powerful and energizing — for both of you. But make sure to ask them what they need from you before you dive in.

Do they want to talk or do they want space? Do they want you to share what your life was like at their age or simply say that you love them?

Check in with your teen — and respect what they say. 

In addition, as they share ideas, try to avoid giving them an immediate “no” or putting down their ideas. 

Try this: Empower your teen to make a choice or lead an activity. When a big decision is looming, it can be empowering and comforting for a teen to feel they still have the ability to choose. So continue to encourage their decision-making in smaller ways. Have them decide what classes to take, what hikes to go on, or what to make for a family meal. You might just find that you get as much out of it as they do.

What’s Your Experience? Let us Know

Are you a parent navigating big transitions with your teen? Or are you a mentor trying to invest in a student as they consider their next steps? Send us a note or DM us on Instagram to tell us about it! We are always looking for the stories of real parents and adults who are supporting teens.

This post is re-shared from MileHighMamas.com — click here to read the full post. You can also follow Amber’s journey on Facebook and Twitter.

Amber Johnson

Amber is the editor of Mile High Mamas, she is a former adventure-travel writer and mother of two teens.