Junior year is stressful for students on so many levels.
Students are deep in the process of considering an entirely new phase of life. They’re riddled with uncertainty about the future—not only about the college they’ll attend and the career they’ll pursue, but also about where they’ll live and how their relationships will inevitably change.
To make matters more difficult, their entire identity seems to be defined by a set of very specific questions that everyone seems to be asking:
Where do you want to go to college?
What do you want to study?
What do you want to be when you grow up?
This poking and prodding naturally exacerbates the raw stress and pressure high school juniors already feel. It’s a lot to manage—and the adults in their lives owe them a concerted effort to help alleviate some of that burden.
Tips for Talking to a High School Junior
Let this post serve as a call to action for adults—parents, grandparents, family friends—to ditch the unhelpful questions and offer the support that juniors truly need. Here are several helpful dos and don’ts for talking to a high school junior:
Don’t bring up topics that juniors have no control over
Every junior has that one person in their life who they just know is going to ask them questions like, “What college are you going to?” and “What are you going to major in?” as soon as they sit down for Thanksgiving dinner. The goal is to not be that person!
Juniors have so much anxiety surrounding these issues already. But more importantly, they don’t have the answers to these questions yet.
Don’t barrage juniors with lectures and demands
Conversation starters like, “You need to do [insert task]!” or “You didn’t do [insert task]!” are never helpful for juniors. Let’s be honest, most people don’t respond well to demands and accusations—and teenagers are no exception.
Think of ways to pose more thoughtful questions instead. If you know your teen is behind on accomplishing an important task, ask them, “Can you help me understand what needs to happen next?” or even a simple (but not judgmental), “What’s your plan?”
This approach puts the teenager in the driver’s seat and gives them a chance to impress you with their answer. They may have a plan in the works that you don’t know about!
Don’t ask questions that are too open-ended
Open-ended questions are great. Questions that are too general, however, have the tendency to make juniors feel like they have to hold up the entire conversation with their response.
A question like, “How’s it going?” seems innocuous enough. But a junior might hear that question and panic, not even knowing where to begin.
Do follow a junior’s lead
The best way to find out if a junior wants to talk about standardized testing, college admissions, or another hot topic? Ask them!
Asking permission to broach these topics can go a long way toward building comfort and trust. If your student doesn’t want to talk about a certain topic, don’t press them. You can always return to it when they’re in a better head space.
Do ask juniors about their non-academic interests
When in doubt, steer clear of topics like testing or college admissions. Just as adults are more than what they do for a living, so are high school students more than their academic aspirations.
Why not ask your student about their non-academic interests? Sports, hobbies, friends, the latest Marvel movie—there are plenty of ways to engage a junior that have nothing to do with school. They’ll appreciate you taking an interest in them and may open up to you about more serious issues in the future.
Do ask juniors about what they’ve accomplished already
It’s much easier for a student to recap what they’ve already accomplished than it is to think about unknown outcomes.
If you want to talk about the college admissions process or life after high school, encourage them to catch you up on how everything has gone so far. This approach gives them the opportunity to share their progress and focus on their accomplishments.
Do remind juniors that you’re on their side
The college admissions process is challenging, but it’s something for parents and their teens to tackle together as a team.
Create space to talk openly about the stress and struggle of it all. Use the experience as an opportunity to bond with your junior and deepen your relationship.
If your student could use extra support during this challenging time in their life, Signet is here to help.