There’s nothing more bittersweet than your child’s senior year in high school. It seems like you were just peeling your baby off your leg and nudging them through the kindergarten door. When you think of all the “firsts” you’ve been through — carpools, class parties, back-to-school nights — it’s hard to face a year of “lasts.”
So go ahead: Have a sobfest, then dry your eyes and make this year special. It’s all about carving out precious time together, and you don’t have to go far — or even leave home — to make wonderful memories.
1. REVIVE FAMILY DINNER
Over the years, homework, sports practice or an after-school job took precedence, and family dinners went the way of dinosaur-shaped chicken nuggets. Make a point, even if it’s one night a week, to sit down together.
Family dinner can also be opportunity to help your child learn how to make their favorite meal. Start with family recipes, then help your child choose one “signature dish” to perfect when they need to wow their friends or a date. My son learned to make “spicy chicken fingers” his senior year and whips them up whenever he has the chance.
2. START A NEW RITUAL
Set aside Thursday nights to go see a new movie release, or chill on the couch playing video games. Start going to Sunday brunch or inaugurate a Tuesday morning coffee run. Start this new pattern now so it becomes an ingrained part of your routine throughout the hectic schedule senior year can bring.
You don’t have to go far — or even leave home — to make wonderful memories.
3. VISIT AN OLD FAVORITE
Plan a special vacation to a place they loved when they were younger and see if the roller coaster is still terrifying or forest cabin is as comforting as ever.
If travel isn’t in the cards, revisit childhood memories right at home. Whether it’s the local zoo or that restaurant that serves sky-high chocolate-dipped cones, you’re sure to find a place that will bring back warm memories for both of you.
4. EXPLORE SOMEWHERE NEW
Create a new memory and go on a trip you’ve always wanted to take but never had the time. Go fishing in Alaska or take in a Broadway show — whatever feeds your child’s current interest. To really up the memory potential, surprise them the morning of the trip and whisk them away — they’ve been diligently attending school for 13 years; missing one day won’t hurt.
If you can't skip town, stick with the ambush plan and take them to be a tourist in your own city. Or head out on a short road trip — bonus points if you rent a convertible! It will be a day they’ll never forget.
5. INITIATE GROWN-UP CONVERSATIONS
They’re old enough now to get it: your wisdom, your failures, your triumphs … even some of your secrets. Let them in a little more as they head out into the real world.
Speaking of that real world, arm them with some financial basics. Share your best and worst money moves from your first years on your own. (For me, opening a Nordstrom card as a college sophomore with no job was a poor choice.)
Having these conversations face-to-face can feel daunting. If you prefer, write journals to each other to share your thoughts and answer questions they're curious about.
6. BE PRESENT
As teens become more self-sufficient, parents often don’t feel as needed. Maybe they drive themselves, so you no longer make it to all their games or recitals. This year, attend as many activities as you can.
You’ll also want to start teaching them how to manage on their own, like doing their own laundry or getting up with their own alarm. But remember that they're still kids, and we all love having someone take care of us now and then — so even if they can do something for themselves, it’s OK to do it for them while you can. My son was a baseball umpire his senior year, and I would make him a smoothie before every game. When he moved out, I was so glad I'd done that one kindness all spring since now he’s too far away for me to do anything for him.
Finally, just be around them. Be in the same room, even if you’re both on your laptops. You won’t regret it for one moment when they’re no longer around to just be together.