It is April and, for many high school seniors, the wait is over. Email notifications and letters of admissions have arrived. Some seniors are ecstatic, while others are disappointed. Whatever the emotion, the time has come to begin weighing options and making a decision — a major decision. Where will their next step take them? Which direction will they go?
As their K-12 journey comes to an end, seniors are preparing to begin their own life’s journey — continuing with their education, choosing to go into the workforce, serving in the military or perhaps choosing a different path. They are at a crossroad. So what influences their decision? How do they choose which path to take?
Think back when you faced a crossroad in your life. Maybe it was deciding where to attend college, choosing a first job, moving to a new city or buying a home.
What swayed your decision? Who influenced your chosen path? How did you decide where to go and what to do? Was it a well-thought-out, rational process?
Often we make decisions with our heart and not our heads. We are human, after all. And, by the way, when you made your decision, did you end up where you thought you were going? I bet for many us, a parent, teacher or trusted friend provided the guidance and encouragement that gave us direction and encouraged us to discover our true passions and talents.
So here I am, the parent of two children graduating this year — one from college, the other from high school. My wife and I didn’t plan to have only one tuition bill a year, but it has worked out well. How do we help them make decisions at their crossroads — for one the world of work, the other college?
As someone who values asking questions, listening closely and analyzing information, the guidance I offer my young adult children stems from two facts.
First, it is their journey, not mine. Second, they are watching and listening to others in their life, not just to mom and dad.
It is their journey. So we need to let them weigh the options, consider the possibilities and, ultimately, make the decision. Whatever path they choose, I will continue to encourage them to explore new possibilities knowing that there will be many paths taken. And when they find themselves wandering without a sense of direction — and they will — I’ll ask questions with both my head and heart that teach and listen.
The second fact can be difficult for parents: Other people influence our children. While I may “friend” my children on Facebook, they can simply “unfriend” me with a click of a mouse, giving me the “digital cold shoulder.” But our children have friends who know their likes and dislikes. Fortunately, those friends, teachers and other family members have a different view into my children’s lives, and those perspectives matter. Those relationships affect how they think and feel. The friendships they’ve made and the experiences they’ve had affect their future choices.
Listening, learning and valuing other perspectives are guiding me as I help my children face their crossroads.
So, what crossroads are in your future? Do you have a “major decision” to make? Whatever it may be, asking questions, listening to others and considering possibilities can serve you well. Because, at the end of the day, when facing a crossroad the choice is yours.