Book Review: The Launching Years (Part 1)

The Launching Years: Strategies for Parenting from Senior Year to College Life, by Laura Kastner and Jennifer Wyatt is a must read for parents of juniors or seniors in high school, as well as parents of college-aged young adults. With steadfast encouragement these authors give practical suggestions for doing a great job launching your teens, not just coping with the problems that sometimes creep into our families during this exciting period of life.

There was so much information in this book that I decided to have two reviews. This first section is for parents of high school students, and Part 2 will be for parents of college-aged children. The only "issue" I had with the book is that it describes the college process and launching as occurring in the senior year, which I disagree with. Launching, and preparing a child to leave home with all of the assets they will need to be successful really needs to start much earlier, and the launching process for college-bound youth really needs to begin in the junior year of high school. Pushing all of the college-preparation activities into senior year demands a crisis!

Apart from that, I think the authors did a great job identifying how important this phase of parenting is, and how little attention and support parents get during this challenging time. They also describe the barriers to successful launching, from both the child and parent perspectives, and provide comfort and practical strategies to overcome the typical hurdles. There are suggestions for how to mitigate the stress associated with college applications, and what to do when college-bound teens suddenly get clingy, dependent or rebellious.

Some of the reassurances that may calm parents of younger teens include the fact that with over 3,000 accredited colleges in the United States, there will be a spot for your child. Students with a C average can actually be admitted to more than 1,000 colleges, and B students can attend all but the top 200 schools! Other encouraging facts are that "where" a person goes to college seems to be less important to success than the number of years spent in higher education and the actual completion of the degree.

Instead of worrying about "where" a child goes to college the authors suggest parents focus on:
  • Whether teens are building strong interests both within and outside of school;
  • How motivated a teen is;
  • Whether a teen know how to take advantage of whatever resources are available;
  • Whether a teen is engaged, aware, resilient, responsible and committed to living a productive life; and
  • What goals and values a teen is reflecting with their behavior.
There are great stories about real families, with real, not perfect children, and gentle reminders to handle our own personal issues outside of our relationships with our children that will bolster all parents. There is a section about the ADHD child, gap years, alternatives to college, boomerang teens who need some more time at home before going off to school, and even teens who seem to go off the deep end while preparing to launch. Basically, this book includes something for everyone.

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