Preparing your teen for life after high school

Before you knew it, your precocious toddler grew into a high-schooler looking ahead to the future. And just the same way you taught your little peanut skills like brushing their teeth, looking both ways when crossing the street and being a good friend, you need to help prepare them for the next stages of independence, and training for college and career.

Getting a job

For some parents, that starts with whether they should encourage their teen to get a job.

There is no set age where teens should or should not seek employment, said Delilah R. Smith, Career Technical Education Liaison for Dover High School and Career Technical Center.

Ultimately, she said, this decision is dependent on the parents, the teen and the job. On the plus side, it provides students with a sense of responsibility and helps teens enhance interpersonal skills, in addition to learning the skills of the job.

But a job can take away time from school work and extracurricular activities the student may be interested in. Marta Neskey, a clinician with Child and Family Services of New Hampshire, said an after-school job may not be appropriate for everyone.

“I do not believe that all teenagers should get a job,” she said. “I believe that it depends on their emotional maturity and desire to get a job, and whether or not that job contributes to or distracts them from other critical learning opportunities.”

Neskey said she works with a number of teenagers who successfully manage school as well as work responsibilities. Many of them schedule work for after school, and keep weekends free for rest, school work and social activities. But while they like the extra cash and enjoy the social aspect of having a job, working and going to school can be a lot for a teenager.

“The parents and caregiver should monitor their schedule,” Neskey said. “Having a job should be a boost of confidence for teenagers. While maintaining a job allows teenagers to learn many skills that are helpful them to become successful adults, not having it should not be an indication whether or not a teenager will become successful in maintaining one as an adult.”

Life skills

There are other ways to teach teens how to be responsible. Neskey said many parents give their teens tasks to do around the house to prepare them for being on their own. She said that could include laundry, washing dishes, vacuuming, cooking and grocery shopping.

One of their biggest challenges, however, is teaching a teen to balance a checkbook and use debit and credit cards mindfully, Neskey said. While some schools have introduced basic finance and banking skills into the curriculum, this is still largely something that falls into the parental wheelhouse.

“Teenagers would benefit from introducing them to online banking,” Neskey said. “It is also important to teach them the importance of keeping certain documents such bills, tax returns, etc.”

Need some guidance? There is help for parents via Smart About Money or SAM (, a program of the National Endowment for Financial Education. SAM is a free, unbiased resource where you can find articles, resources, calculators and tips on managing money. You can also find additional resources through NH Jumpstart Coalition, an organization dedicated to improving the personal financial education of students throughout New Hampshire (

License to drive

Another hurdle to clear in the teenage years is whether they should own a car. Once again, this decision comes down to the maturity level of the teen as well as the need for a car.

While many teenagers are able to maintain a car and help pay for it by having an after-school or summer job, Neskey said, not all teenagers want a car or driver's license.

But if they do, parents should spend time helping their teen research and learn about driving and insurance laws in New Hampshire.

“Teenagers I work with are at times confused in regards to how the car insurance works,” she said. “[And] they may not be aware of the price of it and consequences of getting into a car accident.”

Under state law, any person between the age of 16 and 21 who meets the requirements for a New Hampshire driver license will be issued a youth operator license that expires on the driver's 21st birthday. Those requirements state that New Hampshire residents can start learning to drive at the age of 15½ but must be at least 16 to apply for a driver license. Furthermore, drivers younger than 18 must complete an approved Driver Education Program, 40 hours of additional supervised driving time, and provide written permission from a parent or guardian in order to apply for a driver's license.

Once all the requirements are met and the teen passes a road test, he or she will get a 60-day, temporary paper license. A driver's license will be mailed within 60 days.

Unlike the standard New Hampshire driver's license, according to the state’s website, youth operator licenses are oriented vertically rather than horizontally. Drivers younger than the age of 18 also have to adhere to special restrictions once they have obtained their licenses. The restrictions include not operating a motor vehicle between the hours of 1 and 4 a.m.; not driving with more than one passenger younger than 25 years of age who is not a member of the driver's family unless accompanied by a licensed, responsible adult who is at least 25 years of age during the first six months holding the license; and not driving a vehicle with more passengers than seat belts or safety restraints in the vehicle.

Under state law, the state can revoke or suspend a teen’s license after a hearing, and after evidence that the driver has committed certain offenses. A teen who gets two or more speeding tickets as a youth operator driver in the first two years of having the license will be required to get an SR-22 insurance policy for three years from the date of the second hearing. Youth operators can also have their licenses suspended due to accumulating demerit points.

While New Hampshire has no mandatory insurance law, The Division of Motor Vehicles strongly recommends and urges all owners of motor vehicles to carry standard liability and property damage insurance.

After high school

Finally, arguably one of the biggest decisions for teens and the people who love them is the question of what they will do after they graduate from high school.

For college-bound kids, this includes helping them beef up their resumes with extracurricular activities, volunteer work and grades that will attract the attention of admissions offices. It also includes researching and touring colleges as well as helping to keep students on track with filling out applications.

For help, parents, caregivers and students can often reach out to college admissions offices to learn the requirements for getting into the school and what the school offers. Many colleges and universities also offer guidance when it comes to financial aid, which can often be tricky to navigate. Parents should also check out NHHEAF (NH Higher Education Assistance Foundation) Granite State Management & Resources NH Higher Education Loan Corporation ( Their website provides a plethora of information on applying to college and financial aid.

For those not looking at college for the next step, there are also plenty of options and resources available. One choice could be enrolling in a career and technical program. Delilah Smith, CTE Career Services/Business Partnership Liaison at Dover High School, says non-college bound — and college-bound students — can walk away with industry certifications, postsecondary pathways and licensure that allows them to go directly into the workforce.

Many high schools and technical centers, such as the one at Dover High School and Career Technical Center, have a liaison who partners with local businesses, community organizations and postsecondary institutions to establish job shadows, internships and work cooperatives for DHS-CTC students. In addition, students are provided with assessments that help them explore career interests and skill sets so as to better make career decisions, Smith said.

Neskey adds that some teens also choose to take a gap year after high school as a way to help them figure out what they would like to do.

“They usually work in retail or help their parents in home business,” Neskey said. “[Also], volunteering opportunities are a great way of getting them involved in what they want to do.”    

Melanie Plenda, a longtime contributor to Parenting New Hampshire and other publications statewide, is a full-time freelance journalist and mother living in Keene.

More from our special series on teens and tweens

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How to set reasonable expectations and rules with your teen

As a child becomes a teenager, what are some reasonable responsibilities teens should be expected to take on?

Sex, dating, relationships and your teen

Tips for parents who need to talk with their children about sex, dating and healthy relationships

Social media, technology and your tweens and teens

Local experts share advise about setting screen time limits, smart phones and how to handle social media accounts

New Hampshire Next

New Hampshire Next is an annual print publication produced each fall by Parenting NH that focuses on life after high school.

In this year's edition you will find articles on the job outlook in NH, paying for college, workforce training and more.

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