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How to support your kids making big decisions

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Major life decisions are tough. Major life decisions during a pandemic and while feeling burned out are even tougher. 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? 

The Forward Together campaign could not have come at a better time for our family. Their resources are aimed at helping youth feel more connected — because research shows that when they feel connected, they are healthier and more resilient. 

Follow our family’s journey with our daughter as we put their tools to the test…the same tools that will hopefully inspire you to help your teens live more full and healthy lives. How to connect with teens

Tips for connectedness

The Search Institute, an organization that studies youth development and health, has identified five elements that make relationships more powerful in our young people’s lives. 

Express Care. Show me I matter to you.

Challenge Growth. Push me to keep getting better.

Provide Support. Help me complete tasks and complete goals.

Share Power. Treat me with respect and give me a say.

Expand possibilities. Connect me with people and places that broaden my world.

We have tried to do all of these things with our daughter but there are two areas we have really tried to focus on these last few months: Share Power and Expand Possibilities.

Share Power. 

The Search Institute advocates that we should respect our teens and take them seriously while including them in decisions where they are impacted. We have always tried to do these things, however their next two recommendations are much more difficult: Collaborating and letting our daughter solve problems to reach goals and letting 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 her 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 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.

How to Connect With Your Teen

 Do you feel like you’re struggling to connect with your teens? Proximity does not equal connection!

 Forward Together offers these incredibly helpful resources and reminders that are doable and practical in daily life with your teen, such as:

  • Work with the time you’ve got.
  • Share the respect.
  • Offer support without taking over.
  • Don’t forget to talk about the “good stuff.”
  • Take the pressure off. 

We can all get busy and caught up in daily life, but setting aside a little time to check in with your teen is important to let them know you care.

Additional Forward Together Resources

These are just a few of the many tremendous resources Forward Together offers:

In case you missed it: How we have worked on developing our relationship with our 15-year-old son

About Forward Together 
The Forward Together campaign is a Colorado-based ad campaign for parents and for youth ages 10-17. This campaign aims to help youth feel more connected – to their peers, their parents, and other trusted adults in their lives – because research shows that when they feel connected, they are healthier and more resilient. Youth who are connected are less likely to smoke, drink, vape, use marijuana, and have feelings of depression or loneliness.  The Forward Together campaign team includes staff and youth advisors from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) and Colorado Department of Human Services (CDHS). 

In partnership with Mile High Mamas

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