Cassie Grainger and her son at the Pentagon

Thriving with Your Senior: Tips for Transitioning Your Kid Out of the House


Moving up, out, and into adulthood can be an exciting time for you and your high school senior. I’m a firm believer that the universe has a way of making this transition easier. Of course, we will all miss our children’s smiling faces and reminisce about how much they’ve grown and all they have accomplished. But there is a little place in every parent-of-a-senior’s heart that secretly will not miss picking up smelly lacrosse gear, vacuuming those little AstroTurf pebbles out of the carpet or constantly barking at them about chores. As parents, we want to make sure our kids are prepared to leave the nest. Here are some tips for parenting seniors through the transition into adulthood.

  1. Financial management classes. Most high schools now require students to complete a personal financial management class before graduation. If your high school doesn’t, insist that your child take an online course.
  2. Allowance changes or a job. “Mom, I need money for the basketball game.” “Mom, I need gas money.” “Mom, can I have money to eat out with my friends?” “Mom, I need a haircut.” We’ve heard them all. If your child is able to hold down a job while also continuing with the demands of his or her extracurricular requirements, great! A part-time job in high school is a great option. If your family relies on the allowance route, consider slowly increasing your child’s allowance while reducing the number of a-la-carte money handouts. With the increased cash comes the increased responsibility of budgeting his or her own money. One strategy for determining an appropriate allowance would be to add up what you pay for annually—haircuts, gas, clothing, extracurricular handouts, etc. Allot this amount, monthly, into a teen checking account they can manage on their own (with guidance from mom and dad, of course). This can help your senior learn to budget and understand how much things cost in the real world.
  3. Let them make mistakes. When your child leaves the house, they won’t have you to rescue them every time they turn something in late or they forget their lunch at home. Teach your child logical consequences by allowing them to learn from their mistakes. Put the ownership of their daily activities on them. It will not kill your senior to make their own lunch, to reload their own lunch account (included in the allowance budget), or to track their own grades. We can keep a watchful eye by checking in, but as they near adulthood, it should be less often and with more of the responsibility on the child.
  4. Teach them basic skills. True story, my son did not know how to deposit cash into an ATM until this year, and he is 17. I just assumed he knew, but he didn’t. Teach your children basic skills—how to pick out produce in the grocery store, how to read nutrition labels, how to compare prices, how to tip the server, etc. When it’s time to replace the tires on the car, ask them to do the research. Don’t assume that your child knows the ins and outs of adulthood. Take the time to share your knowledge in a loving way.
  5. Establish expectations of adulthood. Talk to your child about how you see your communication changing when they leave the house. Come to a consensus on a reasonable amount of communication. Let’s be real. They may not want to call us every day (even though we’re awesome) but it’s not unreasonable to ask to hear from them regularly. If you see your financial role changing in their life, share that with them and together, come up with a plan to ease that transition. If they are college bound, set a realistic GPA you expect to see at school. Talk about how they will manage real world situations that will require them to make good choices. Communicating, openly, about how life will be different will help you and your child grow.

Preparing your senior for adulthood and letting go of some of the responsibility of your child’s daily activities is hard. You have been the momager or dadager for almost 18 years! Don’t think of it as “letting go.” Think of it as teaching them to survive and thrive as a young adult. Be honest with your child about what they can expect and prepare them with knowledge. Then, prepare yourself for that first call home when they ask for your advice. Just because they leave the house doesn’t mean you stop caring. You are simply entering a new phase of your relationship. Good luck!

Cassie Grainger
Written By Cassie Grainger
Marine Corps spouse

Cassie has been a Marine Corps spouse for more than 20 years. She is also a family readiness volunteer and moonlights as a writer and editor.

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