As a parent of a teen trying to decide what she wants to do with the rest of her life, I’ve realized I am incredibly thankful not to be a teen in 2019.
The pressure our teens are under to choose a career by at least Grade 11 – so they can pick the courses they need for Grade 12 – is ridiculous. No wonder our kids are suffering from anxiety, depression and a host of other mental health issues.
If you are lucky enough to know exactly what you want to do, have the smarts to get the marks you need to get into that course or get a scholarship, and of course, parents with a money tree in the backyard to pay for it – no problem. Athletic skills to get a full ride scholarship south of the border also help.
But if you aren’t sure, aren’t a 90s student, trip over dust, and your parents are like most as part of the over-taxed middle class, even thinking about college or university causes heart palpitations. I know as a parent, the stress of paying for college or university – with just the tuition for courses being $6,000 to $14,000 – is incredibly nerve-racking, even with an RESP. Then add on $10,000 more for residence and meal plan.
All that money you were sure was so smart to sock into an RESP will maybe pay for one or possibly two years of university. And thanks to changes this year to OSAP, the burden of debt kids will face the minute they are done school – whether they have a job or not – is overwhelming.
We have a child who does well in school and aspires to have a great career, but I admit I did a happy dance when she decided she preferred a bachelor of science over an engineering degree, which is twice the tuition cost and an extra year in school.
We tell our kids to dream big and chase those dreams, then we tell them their dreams cost too much and they have to give up anything fun to go to work to help us pay for school. Even then, they will probably have to apply for OSAP and come out of school with a crippling burden of debt before they even get to start their life in the work force. Oh, and keep those grades up while working because your entire future depends on it.
Balance in life is everything, and when you have to sacrifice the things that make you happy and relieve stress so you can have a future, it’s no wonder mental health issues are a big problem.
As parents, we need to be the safe, secure place our kids go to when they are stressed, and that job seems to get harder the older they get.
When they scraped a knee at five years old, you kissed the booboo and sent them on their way happy. As a teen, no amount of kisses will help them figure out their future, so we just have to do the best we can to support and help them to a career that will pay their bills and have a chance at a fulfilling life.
For families without the funds, and kids with just average grades, I worry what will happen to them and how they will create a better future for them and their children.
To all the parents of students off to post-secondary school, I feel your pain and say we start a support group that meets over wine and comfort food. We’re going to need all the support we can get.