Chores in the High School Years

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This year marks another shift in household responsibilities as our fourth child finished high school, our fifth child continues to move through those years, and two young adult graduates reside at home while working and attending college. All of us are trying to figure out the new normal with new courses and work schedules.

Needless to say, this isn’t our first go-round with adjusting to the schedules of our young adult children while also reconfiguring the completion of necessary daily tasks. (In other words, our experience doesn’t always equate to “we got this”).

When our first child entered high school in the early 2000’s we were broadsided with the thought that we might have to adjust his household responsibilities to make allowance for his new, fuller schedule. Most of the families we knew or books we read added to the confusion with their “they still live there, they still contribute” or “if they are not paying rent, they should be helping” advice.

Honestly, I had to unpack these well-meaning sentiments, the application of which seemed to strain and fray our relationship.

I was pretty sure there had to be a better way, a way we could work together to process and find solutions.

Relationships matter to us.

As our oldest entered high school, his days were full based on the choices he made to weave academics, sports, and service. In the later high school years, he took on a part-time job. Managing his time wasn’t an issue. He was navigating that well, but still had a hard time carving out ten minutes here and there to unload the dishwasher or take out the trash. He was, however, trying to work on it. His heart wanted to serve, but his days were full.

The second high schooler mirrored his brother—academics, sports, and service. He also managed to spend time earning badges on the road to Eagle and mentor younger scouts. Later in high school he, too, had a part-time job. Again, there were only so many hours in the day and his heart reflected an attitude of trying to help where he could. His days were full.

Enter young adults (now graduates) three and four. Different scenarios, different circumstances, same well-intentioned hearts. Again, we are finding the process worthy of mutual care and respect as we find a balance between school, work, and life. It’s a life skill, not something to be demanded or placed upon. And, we get to walk alongside.

But there’s the advice and pressure from other parents. So hard!

I wondered if there were other families facing similar ponderings.

I wondered if our processing would help others in their walk through. On my journey, I came face-to-face with these thoughts:

  • Our high schoolers only has so much time in the day (a real truth for all of us). If I were in any of their shoes (and I have been), I would want someone to coach and process with me, not continue to place demands.

  • Our high schoolers were using time wisely (to the best of their current ability), weaving work and school responsibilities. Again, having been through similar scenarios in life, I remembered I LOVED when people offered grace and an extra hug when I made a mistake and had to try again.

  • When I find myself in a new life season (birth of a baby, health concerns, family needs) it takes me time to adjust. Why would it not be the same for my teens and young adults?

  • Our high schoolers are willing to serve when they are able and obviously high school academics, sports, and service require more time than years prior. How can I be understanding instead of adding pressure?

  • Our high schoolers are in the process of navigating a real-life scenarios - balancing work, school, and life (an important skill which doesn’t happen overnight). I have the ability to believe my high schoolers will figure this out. They need me to be a cheerleader (with my affirming words) of their efforts.

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In the meantime, I discovered

I may have to do a few extra dishes or collect a few extra trash cans. My pondering brought understanding and empathy, potential ways for me to walk alongside as teens and young adults process their shifts in responsibility and life seasons.

My support is more meaningful and helpful than my nagging. My teens and young adults are not any different than I. We face some of the same life challenges and temptations. When I face a snag in life, I’m grateful for understanding, connection and communication verses anger, discouragement, and silence. Alibet, I do appreciate if I am doing something wrong or hurtful (sinful) that someone close to me would help me see the blind spot (another life lesson).

I am still learning (even as I adjust to our fourth graduate’s and our fifth high schooler’s new schedules). I don’t always navigate this process gracefully (though it is my heart to do so) but I am getting better at it. Truthfully, It’s hard to set aside the well-meaning sentiments of “he owes it to us” or the “you don’t have time to add this back on your plate or figure out how to adjust to his new stage of life” mentalities that I hear.

Fifteen years into the process of walking new life seasons with young adult children, I am still pondering, pondering deeper thoughts, thoughts that are important to family life, thoughts I now understand better. They matter! Every. Moment. Matters.