Those Transitional Years

You blinked a couple of times. Your little boy/girl of 8 is now 17. You wonder where the years went. You are second-guessing yourself. Did you cover everything you should have? Is he is going to be able to succeed once he is on his own? Will she be able to support herself?

Your special blessing is not interested in going forward in the traditional four years of college. What do you do next?

I’m in these transitional years myself with my youngest. It hit me recently that soon I will have an empty nest for the first time in over 30 years. I’m asking myself, ‘Where did the years go?’

My youngest has no desire to follow the conventional college route. In the early years, he wanted to be a veterinarian. I was concerned, but told him if he wanted to work hard enough, he could do it. Later, he was interested in being a park ranger since he was more interested in wildlife than domestic animals. I helped him research the career field. He quickly lost interest.

After attending a leadership conference through the local 4-H clubs, he came home and informed me he wanted to be an outdoor guide. I again helped him research his options. Due to his years in Pathfinders and Boy Scouts (He earned Eagle), he has the needed experience where he can just start working as a guide. He can be guaranteed a job with the local Scout camps for as long as he wishes. However, he wants to run his own business and plan his own events. After further research, we found several places he can take short courses to earn the certificates he needs to give himself a more professional edge.

So what do you do if your blessing doesn’t know what she wants to do? Some ideas could be to take local community classes in topics of interest, whether they are cake decorating or child care. Almost every community should have a local job workforce center that offers low-cost classes in a wide variety of topics. These centers also offer self-employment classes in case your darling wants to open their own business. There are also SCORE volunteers who will give free advice in that area also.

Outside of the classes, another option is to volunteer. There are many organizations that are opened for volunteers to come in to do everything from answering phones to cleaning barns. If you can’t think of a location, contact your local United Way. On their website, there will be a list of organizations that need help. Many businesses need the child to be at least 16 to volunteer without an adult present, due to insurance.

Volunteering is a great way to try out and develop different skills. It will show the areas where your child is strong and where he needs some help. Volunteering looks great on a resume also. When two employees have the same credentials, the one who has volunteering on their resume will have an 85% higher chance of being hired than the other one.

Maybe your child does want to learn more but is not ready to go the traditional college route. There are dozens of colleges online that offer free classes for non-credit. Coursera is one such site. When the student finishes the course, he is given a certificate of completion. Some colleges will accept these, along with a CLEP test as a replacement for a regular class. These free classes can be listed on a CV for a future employee. Some employers are more interested in the knowledge rather than whether you learn the information the traditional way.

If your child has some challenges, there are other resources that are available such as Vocational Rehab which can help in testing and paying for technical training. They have a department that is specialized for youths making the transition to adulthood.

Other organizations such as Job Corps have programs where the young adult goes to live on site for a few months while learning a job skill. Each parent can look in their own community to find their local programs to help their own child.

The transitional years do not have to be filled with self-doubt or fear. It’s tough in moving on to the next step. Continue to pray and seek God’s wisdom while you take a backseat to your child’s next step. They will still need your guidance, but you have done a good job. It is time for them to fly the coop and fulfill God’s purpose in their lives.