Advising teen children towards long term choices

Recently I’ve begun researching various colleges for my dd15, and yesterday after taking ds16 to have his wisdom teeth out, I stopped at the community college office to ask some questions.  I’ll have to go back with my kids and get an appointment with an advisor for each of them.

Right now I’m feeling conflicted about some issues on the horizon regarding my kids and college.  Dd15 is strongly leaning towards a profession that would be a very good fit for her and I’m very supportive of it.  It also is academically vigorous and will require 7 – 8 years of college.  There are only about 16 colleges that teach this field in the US – and none of them are anywhere close to the state we live in, which necessitates living away from home and raises the bill by about another $10,000 yearly.  Each year of schooling costs about $25 – 30,000 before living expenses, and there is very little financial aid available except for student loans.  Dd can get started within a year and could theoretically be finished as early as when she’s 22.  In the broad scheme of things, that’s pretty young, and she would have a career that could be balanced with raising a family and do something she enjoys and finds satisfying.

I have several views about life/family that aren’t easily reconciled when looking at this particular career path (similar though different issues with ds16), and I’m grappling with how to best guide my children.   I’m not telling them what to do or how to do it- that isn’t my role – but not to give them some direction when they’re requesting support would be wrong.  I’ve raised my children with the perspectives below, so these are currently views they share (which obviously might change with time).  1) If a couple is old enough to get married, they’re old enough to support themselves.  2) When someone is emotionally mature and ready for marriage  and finds the right person, that’s the time to get married – regardless if numerically that seems young or old to others.  3) Children are a blessing and a newly married couple shouldn’t  purposely put them on hold to complete academic requirements.  4) The responsibility for supporting the family is on the husband, not the wife.  5) Debt can become a huge albatross around the neck that can force people to make choices they don’t want to make.

Add in to this mix the desire of dd15 to spend a year in Israel, the desire of ds16 to spend several years in yeshiva once he’s 18 (ie, both potentially ‘time outs’ on the career path), and the reality that larger families generally require more financial resources.  So guiding them means considering a number of factors with both the long term and short term in mind.

I was telling all this to a good friend last night, and she told me I’m once again going to have to blaze my own trail.  And I told her, I’m tired of blazing my own trail for every single thing – I want to find someone who has similar values who has successfully navigated this, and just do whatever they did.  I don’t want to have to think, research, and reflect so much.  😆 But as I know very well, a meaningful life of joy doesn’t come from following the crowd unless that’s where my heart is.

So here’s where I’m at with all of this: sometimes I get too uptight and have to step back to regain perspective!  I have to remind myself that H-shem created a world where doing His will is the goal, and whatever we’re doing, it’s with the desire to serve Him and to be responsible stewards in this world of the resources we’re entrusted with.  I have to let go of trying to figure all of this out in advance, and do the best I can one day at a time, and trust that the partner that I’ve had raising my children all these years – H-shem – will continue to support us all and help us make the right choices.

Practically speaking I don’t know what that will look like, but I’ll share it with you when we figure it out!


12 thoughts on “Advising teen children towards long term choices

  1. You’re such a good Mom! It really comes through in every post! I assume you didn’t mention your daughter’s career aspiration for a reason? :o) Your kids are so lucky that you take the time to teach them the values listed. I grew up in a large family but the main value my mother gave over was that of finishing college and grad school before anything else, including marriage and children. Perhaps that is because they struggled financially, perhaps that is because her marriage wasn’t the happiest, i don’t know. In any case, I also wanted to learn in E”Y but didn’t want to “waste” time compared to my peers so I made up my mind to complete college in 3 years and then go to E”Y. It worked perfectly B”H. I digress, sorry. How do you teach your kids those values? Do you have open conversations with them or do they just pick it up by osmosis? :o)

  2. I didn’t mention her career goal specifically because I try to honor my childrens’ privacy (hence no names), and am increasingly hearing comments from them that parents of their friends are reading my blog – so I’m being more careful.

    **Edited to add – I guess it’s okay to add that she’s interested in becoming a chiropractor.

    I’ll answer the main question in the next couple of days. :)

  3. I’m sure it is hard to trail-blaze so many challenging areas. I really pray that Hashem gives you the strength to do it and thank Him that it is His ratzon to bring your knowledge and guidance into so many other people’s lives (including mine!). :) Your efforts are a gift to all of us who are not yet facing these challenges.

  4. not sure what her chosen field is, but i know with us we sent the olders to community college for the first 2 years to do the basic courses- intro english, math, science, etc. many times in science fields the prerequisites can almost all be done at a community college for a fraction of the cost, and while the child lives at home, which saves a ton of money. if she has a particular university she wants to attend, she can check with them regarding which credits they will accept from a certain community college. and don’t forget AP exams and CLEP- which can earn credit and save money on college coursework. any concerns about the campus environment? that has always been our biggest hurdle…

    1. I’ve been researching CLEPs and was initially planning to maximize them, but most of the post undergraduate programs we’ve researched only allow a maximum of 20 CLEP credits. I think we’ll look for a program that will be a little more flexible on that, since she’ll have the classes that are most important (basically lots of science classes with labs) done in person. I still have to speak to the community college advisor about their policy about the maximum CLEPs they’ll give credit for – the two people in the office I spoke to there didn’t know what a CLEP was and couldn’t answer my specific questions.

      As of now, what we’re considering is she’ll probably CLEP the freshmen year requirements between now and the summer so she can start at community college in the fall as a sophomore. Then at the end of a year she can transfer to a four year state school (while still living at home) to complete her undergraduate at an accelerated pace. At that time she’ll be 18 and a high school senior, and can decide if she wants to go to seminary in Israel with her friends; she might have to finish the last year of her undergrad when she gets back from Israel. Then she could decide if she still wanted to pursue another three or four years of schooling out of state. But you know the saying, man plans and G-d laughs! :)

  5. if your kids make aliyah to israel as single people i think they are entitled to free college tuition up to phd level…!!!
    worth checking out… nefesh b nefesh would have details

    1. Hi, Johanna, welcome and thanks for your comments!

      My oldest four were born there so the benefits are different since they have dual citizenship, and as of now they aren’t interested in making aliyah. And they don’t have any interest in going to college there – dd specifically wants to go to seminary the same year as her friends! I appreciate the suggestion, though – you never know when this information will come in handy!

  6. i finished my BA at 19 and MA at 22. i was married at 20 and had my first at 23 (not by choice, took 2 years to get pregnant– which actually worked out great B”H)
    i transfered 44 credits from seminary (i went to an accredited seminary that taught in Hebrew) through Empire College, which unfor. does not exist any more, and CLEPd 5 classes, so I only did 2 semesters of real college for my BA. My MA took 2 years at a regular college.

    my biggest regret is that my parents did not give me any direction on my profession, and though i excelled at it, by the time i was 25 i was burnt out and luckily and thankfully have 2 kids and B”H have been a SAHM for 6 months now.

    i eventually want to work, when my kids are all in school, but wish i had a mentor to help me figure out what i would enjoy.

    i am so amazed how in tune you are with your children, i often felt like my parents barely knew me beyond a surface level. i hope to be more aware of my children’s strengths and weaknesses and guide them accordingly.

    i check your blog all the time, it is the best thing on the net. i wish i could meet you in real life– keep it up!

    1. Hi, Estee, welcome!

      Thanks for sharing your experience – it’s so interesting to hear how others have worked these things out! Thank you for your kind comments; maybe one day we’ll have the chance to meet!

  7. Make the maximum of financial aid. Even if you think you don’t qualify, fill out all the forms you can. You might be suprized. They take into account how many financial obligations you have (i.e. number of children, mortgage, etc.), not only your income.
    I went to an ivy league school (which didn’t give merit scholarship) and with a combination of student loans, grants, and scholarship, and work-study programs, ended up with only about $15,000 student loan debt for 4 years. I went to grad school on full support + stipend (to be expected from a technical profession like mine – engineering, science, etc.) and have no debts from there. My parents were both employed and bought a house during my college years, and were also putting my sister through college 2 years behind me. Financial aid was very substantial.

    1. Hi, Anna, welcome and thanks for your comment! I really appreciate hearing the experience of those who were able to complete substantial schooling with minimum debt.

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