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  • Stephanie Haynes

How to Help Your Teen Determine What to do After High School: Part 1

Updated: Oct 12, 2021

The following post contains excerpts from my new book College Is Not Mandatory: A Parent's Guide to Navigating All the Options Available to Our Kids After High School. Check out this page to order your copy today!


Often, a teenager who is unsure of what to do after graduation needs help aligning to what’s most important to them.


As their parent, you can be an instrumental help your teen. In a safe environment you can help them identify what is most important to them and allow them to see their future from a less culturally-pressured perspective, giving them the confidence to make decisions about their future based on what's most important to them.


As I’ve worked with my students and teenage clients (and their parents) over the years I have come to develop a process that will help you do this:

  1. Help your teen identify their values and passion points.

  2. Guide your teen into a growth mindset about their future and the development of meaningful goals.

  3. Work with your teen to identify all their potential career pathways and the options available to them.

  4. Teach your teen how to research each option effectively and establish a post-high school pathway to personal success.

This post focuses on teaching you how to help your teen identify their values and passions.


This process involves setting up a series of no-pressure conversations to work through the following questions as appropriate for your teen, inviting them to tell you their thoughts and perspectives without fear of judgement from you. Do your best to create a safe space and be patient with your teen and yourself. This may all be new and will take time.


Questions to Identify Personal Values (Feel free to customize each conversation for your teen.)

  1. How would you rank the following in order of importance according to what you couldn’t live without (least important being 9 and most important being 1)?

  2. Faith

  3. Family (current)

  4. Friends

  5. Money

  6. Meaningful Career

  7. Marriage

  8. Prestige among colleagues or friends

  9. Notoriety/Fame within your career

  10. Children of your own

  11. Is there anything else you would list as valuable to you?

  12. What influenced your ranking?

  13. What do you currently spend most of your time doing each day?

  14. How does that activity reflect what’s most important to you?

  15. How do you define success?

  16. What factors are most important to you when you think about success for yourself?

  17. If you had no limit to anything you could do to be successful in life, what would you choose to do? What about this excites you the most? What about this idea scares you the most?


Questions to Identify Passion Points

  1. How do you define passion (specifically related to the purpose of daily living)?

  2. What causes, groups, philosophies, and/or events get you the most fired up that something must change? What specific change(s) do you want to see?

  3. If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be? How would you change it? What do you hope would happen because of the changes you would make?

  4. When you imagine the world you want to live in as an adult, what do you hope it is like? Be as specific as possible, considering governments and their influence on the populace, how people treat one another, finances, technology, transportation, housing, education, etc.

  5. What would you be willing to do to make that dream world a reality?

  6. What is one change you can start to make in the world around you today? What about that change is important to you?

  7. What do you believe about the possibility that you can make significant changes in the world?

These questions can sometimes be overwhelming to teenagers who are experiencing a myriad of emotions and new experiences which are helping to shape them. Be patient with them, and yourself. Your student will figure out how to spend their days after high school.


For more support, encouragement and tools to help guide your teen through high school and beyond, be sure to sign up for my High School Parent email list!