I love to talk about this topic because it is one that keeps parents and teens up at night.
Parents often approach me saying “my kid isn’t mature enough”, “they aren’t going to be ready” or “they just need some more time”. Students say similar things – saying they need more time, they aren’t ready, or they don’t know what they want to do. I hear these concerns on a regular basis and they all boil down to one common theme – not feeling ready.
Before we dive in, I want to make sure both student and parent know this important note – readiness is not a reflection of poor parenting or some type of personal failure. Everybody matures, changes, and develops at different rates, and we need to learn to honour that instead of pushing people down a socially constructed path. There’s been no proven developmental reason to go straight into post-secondary, but there are social pressures that dictate that this transition needs to happen on a timeline.
Being ‘ready’ for this transition is really broken down into five factors:
In this episode of the Gap Year Podcast, we’ll deep dive into each of these sections, but let’s do an overview of each right now.
This is the only measure that is completely external to your role as a parent. A teacher gives a grade, a post-secondary institution decides if that grade is good enough and a student is either accepted or not.
For all of the other criteria, parents and the student themselves are actually responsible for evaluating the remaining criteria. When we do through each of the other criteria, we’ll outline some questions to ask yourself (and them) to determine if they’re really ready for post-secondary.
Ask yourself some of these questions:
Can your kid manage their own emotions?
How do they deal with stress?
Can they regulate their emotions without you by their side?
Do their responses to strong emotions result in responsible actions?
Here are some questions to ask yourself to determine if your child is socially ready for this transition:
Can they accurately assess the risk of a new situation?
Can they stand up to peer pressure?
Do you trust their decision making and (almost more important) do they trust their own decision making?
Does your child reach out for support when they are faced with a challenge and recognize when they need the support?
Can they make new friends?
Life skills are a huge part of post-secondary – here’s what to ask yourself:
Do they need to be reminded to eat healthy or get enough sleep? To go to bed and get enough sleep?
Can they do their own laundry and cook their own food?
Do they make their own doctor’s appointments or schedule meetings with professionals?
Can they allocate appropriate time to important activities like homework, or does someone else enforce these timelines?
Being in post-secondary requires a lot of self motivation. Is your child ready?
Who did most of the research for different schools?
Who filled out all of the applications or scheduled the campus tours?
If these first steps were not coming from the student, I would suggest that this lack of enthusiasm might carry forward to their studies once they have entered post-secondary. We want students to feel ownership and excitement towards their next steps for optimal success.
Remember – none of these indicators are permanent! When put into situations that are outside of their comfort zone, these skills will develop and evolve for anybody. For some, it will take a month, for some it could take longer – there is no magical formula besides trusting yourself and your child to know what is right.
A gap year is a perfect way to provide space and time for the development of the whole person so that they are more “ready” for their post-secondary experience. Taking this time is, ironically, a very wise and mature decision. Listen to our podcast now to learn more about these indicators and how to tackle them.
The challenge with readiness is that if we push someone who is not ready into a situation, it can backfire. About 30% of the people who come to CanGap are mid-post secondary – many of them felt pushed into university or college and when they got there it was a disaster socially, academically or emotionally. They take on a lot of baggage from that perceived failure – they don’t feel like they CAN do it because they have failed once, when in fact, most of them would have been excellent students if they had taken a proactive step to take a year to develop socially, emotionally and build some more life skills.
However, many parents fear that their kid who is not ready for post-secondary will spend their gap year on the couch – and that is why the Canadian Gap Year exists. We connect families with the resources to make the gap year meaningful. Check out our website for tons of resources and opportunities.
If you are unsure if your kid is ready for post-secondary, schedule a free 30-minute call with me and we can talk about your family’s unique situation. I would be more than happy to share resources and guide you in your decision-making process.