“I’m a single mother, and my 16-year-old son recently told me he wants to drop out of high school. I’m devastated. Do you have any information about the importance of high school diplomas that might persuade him, or any other resources that might help keep him in school?” – Ruthie from Cheyenne, WY
To start, there is lots of information on the Internet regarding the importance of obtaining a high school diploma. People who earn a high school diploma have better job opportunities, better lifetime earnings gains and are less likely to live in poverty than people who have dropped out.
However, it might be more helpful for you to talk to him about things he wants now and can relate to as a teenager. I recommended that you talk to him about what life will really be like once he drops out of school.
Ask him, “Do you want to get your own place? Do you want a car? What do you think it costs to live on your own? To buy a car?”
He probably will not know. Show him how much an apartment costs by looking up ads in the paper or on the Internet. Show him how much cars cost using the same resources. Then ask him, “What other kinds of things do you want to do? Go to the movies? To get food with his friends?” Point out that these things also cost money and how much.
Once you have his attention, begin to remind him that people who drop out of high school are less likely to find a job and more likely to earn lower wages, go to jail, and struggle to pay their bills. You can also tell him that many employers do a background check – including drug testing, reviewing driving records, credit checks and criminal history. Some will even look at his online profiles like Facebook.
Talk to him about keeping his options open, as all of the choices he makes today will impact his future, one way or the other.
A website we use in Maryland to help youth explore jobs is www.BeWhatIWantToBe.com. One of the things he can do on the website is look at profiles of people in various professions who tell you what they do at work, how they got their jobs, and how much they make.
Always remember, having a caring, concerned parent like you is also a big support for him!