04/25/2013 04:19 pm ET | Updated Jun 25, 2013

What to Expect During Your Teen's Senior Year of High School

Getty Images

Senior year of high school is a mixed bag. It's not Santa's gift bag, but is instead a bag full of emotional joys, disappointments, separations and boredom. Yes, boredom.

Let's start with first semester of senior year. Both teens and parents are fretting over college applications, deadlines for these applications and the impending separation from their parents and high school. First semester of senior year is, in my experience, the most difficult time period for teens and their well-intentioned but anxious parents.

Second semester of senior year is a different story entirely. Teens are excited or let down by which colleges they have been accepted into or rejected from if they are going to college. Next up is prom, which involves hundreds of dollars in preparation and lots of anxiety about whether or not they will be invited to the prom. These days, our teen sons have to contend with "promposals," which refers to asking girls to the prom with exceptionally creative invitations. They risk being rejected if their banner or other sort of invite is considered too low-key. I must say that I feel sorry for the teen boys. I also have equal sympathy for the teen girls. I believe that many of them feel that they can't say no to a young man who has gone all out to create an incredibly high-impact invitation. The teens worry about having a good time at the prom and about how the photos will turn out. This is no small thing, these photos. They will be with the teens through a lifetime. The prom is a milestone and a life marker.

After the college news and prom, teens start to complain about being bored. Just this week, I spoke to a large group of teens who spoke about this sense of boredom that sets in during the second half of senior year. They are unclear about what to do with their time. Many feel ill at ease when they don't have clear goals to strive for. My concern is that they are at risk to get into trouble during this time period.

As usual, I have advice for parents. I don't want your teens to make bad decisions or to get into unsafe situations during this time period. I suggest:

1. Get your teens get involved in some sort of employment or volunteer activities during this time period. Everyone needs to feel necessary and needed somewhere.

2. Help them maintain structure in their lives. As we know, teens thrive with structure.

3. Do not become lax with rules. We do not want teens to throw caution to the wind and stay out late partying.

4. Pay particular attention to their possible use of alcohol and other drugs.


5. Talk to your second semester seniors about how your expectations for responsible behavior still exist despite their imminent departure from home.

Good luck and may all of your kids have a balance of fun, work and structure in their lives as they complete their senior year.