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What to Do if Your Child Doesn’t Want to Go to College

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It doesn’t matter whether you are trying to choose a preparatory academy, preschool or middle school, figuring out how to best educate your children is a big job. It’s incredibly important to make sure that your children are given every advantage in life that they can possibly get. However, a parent can only do so much. Once you have put them through the top private schools, made sure they get in to honors programs, extra curricular activities, gifted classes, preparatory academy and everything else that is available, you have to sit back and let your child make their own decisions moving forward. You might have had dreams of college and PhD’s but if your child decides that they want to go to a trade school instead, you have to let them do it. You might think it’s the worst decision in the world and that all of your money spent on preparatory academy and college prep classes is wasted but you still have to stay quiet. Now, by staying quiet, that doesn’t mean don’t voice your opinion at all; by all means, advise your children as you see fit. Having said that, the final decision should be up to them.

The reason that you need to let your kids be the one to make the final choice regarding their career is that you don’t want them to be able to blame you if something goes wrong. If you think that their career choice or educational decisions are going to end badly and so you force them another direction, they may end up resenting you for stealing their dream. Or, if you are wrong and the path you forced them down is not a good one, they’ll point the finger at you.

On the other hand, if you demand that they do what you want and things turn out well, their pride still may prevent them from having a good relationship with you. Either way, it’s very possible that things could take a bad turn for your relationship.

So, what should you do?

Give Your Opinion
Be very careful here. Teenagers don’t like to get opinions from their parents so make sure you pick your moment carefully. Wait until the two of you are alone and having a heart to heart and respectfully and kindly, let them know that you think there is a better choice. Don’t bash their current desires and decisions, just open their mind to the other options out there. You could also write a letter. Explain clearly that you absolutely trust their decision making abilities and don’t doubt that they have thought through everything clearly. Then carefully word your reasoning for still writing the letter. Something to the effect of not repeating your own mistakes or needing to voice your thoughts because it’s a ‘mom thing’ or a ‘dad thing.’

Be Open to the Other Choice
You might think that college is the only choice for your child. However, there may be things that you aren’t seeing because you have been so college focused their whole lives. Ask you child to explain to you why they want to do what they want to do and how they think it will play out. Do not ask these questions in a patronizing way. Ask because you want to understand. Keep your mind open to the possibility that maybe your child is making the best choice for themselves.

Be Available and Patient
Make it obvious to your children that you are always there for them. If they know that they can come and talk to you or vent to you without judgement or even without getting advise, they may be more willing to voice their thoughts and ideas to you. Overall, be patient. Don’t try and force them to talk to you. Reach out and then wait for them to come to you. You may be pleasantly surprised to find that the preparatory academy years and college prep classes weren’t for nothing and your child comes around to the idea of college. But, if they don’t, don’t assume they are making the wrong choice. Even so, if you are proven right, be careful to refrain from telling them, ‘I told you so.’

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