Teens On The Fence

When one of my very loyal teenage followers, YES TEENAGE, reached out to me to guest blog, I politely declined, as it really wasn’t my “niche.” But right after I politely said no, I re-read her pitch, and thought… “Wow, wouldn’t it be great for mothers to get inside the heads of their teenage children.” And then, I wrote her back. “Chenice, it’s a go! Let’s teach the mothers!”

And that is how this very blog post, Teens On The Fence was born…

Teens On The Fence

By Guest Blogger Chenice Louise Clarke

“Parents rarely let go of their children, so children let go of them. They move on. They move away. The moments that used to define them – a mother’s approval, a father’s nod – are covered by moments of their own accomplishments.”

The quote above by author Mitch Albom author of The Five People You Meet In Heaven, is one that probably everyone can relate to. Especially if you’re a teen moving away to University or into the workplace. At 18 years old, you have to make what is potentially the most life-changing decision of your life so far, and it’s a decision that keeps many teens on the fence. As much as parents say, “It doesn’t matter what you do, as long as you’re happy,” or “We don’t care if you don’t go to University,” the truth is, deep down, they care about nothing else. The huge smile on a parent’s face when they tell their friends that their ‘little girl’ got into a great University is one that even the worst day couldn’t turn into a smile.

Teens On The Fence

The pressure to continue your education, to get a great degree and hopefully a great job is suffocating at times with not only parents, but other family members and teachers all telling you that it’s the right thing to do and the best thing to do. Universities screaming at you to visit and choose them can be very daunting for even the most mature and academic student.

One of the hardest decisions is actually choosing the right University for you. Do you look at “League Tables” as we have in the UK, and choose one from there, or do you feel the pressure to follow in an older siblings footsteps and attend the University they did, to maintain the family legacy? There are times when you feel you can’t even choose the University you merely ‘want’ to, because you feel that’s not a good enough reason in itself. It’s a choice that could turn a great parent-child relationship into a tense one in just a few words.

Then there is the extreme stress we experience around the competition with other students. It’s fierce. The high SAT scores required to get into a great school, coupled with having to be exceptionally well rounded, play on the tennis team, the lacrosse team, be in the Chemistry Club– this pressure is at an all-time-high. I have seen even the brightest students get rejected from their school of choice, because they were number 4 in their class, not number 1.

Teens On The Fence

But then there is the other option, of course. What if you choose NOT to go to University? Maybe you want to get a job instead or an apprenticeship or maybe even take a ‘Gap Year,’ or year off to ‘find yourself’ and meet new people? You would be surprised how many people turn their noses up when I tell them that I, a straight-A student am taking a ‘Gap Year’ to America before going to University. After many heated discussions with my parents which have led to nights crying myself to sleep and days walking around sullen, they finally realized that it’s my life and if I go on to regret it, it’s my regret, not theirs.

While ‘letting go’ of a parent is hard for a teen, sometimes it’s necessary to find out what we enjoy and discover what we’d like to spend the majority, if not, the rest of our life doing. To learn things that we will then teach our own children– perhaps, to let them know that it’s okay not to be sure. I would love moms reading this to realize, that even though we are only teenagers, we are still people with developed thoughts and opinions. But sometimes, we’re stuck on the fence too. Sometimes with all the stress, we just need a moment to pause. We need a breather. And it doesn’t mean that we are going to turn out to be a disappointment.

So if perhaps after reading this, you’ve decided to let your teen make a few of their own decisions, or to let them sit on the fence a while, unsure, remind them: Don’t be unsure motionless.  Keep moving. Meet new people. Learn new things. The answers will come if you’re moving while standing still.



Teens On The Fence

Chenice Louise Clarke is 18 years old, lives in the UK, and will be moving to America for a year to work as an Au Pair with a lovely family in the New York area. She is leaving home for the first time ever and travelling hundreds of miles to live in America. A year away from home, a year away from family and friends and everything ‘British’. Everything that’s made her who she is. But she’s welcoming the challenge and made a decision to go forward with her plan, despite many fears and apprehensions.

Ladies, what do you think? Chenice sounds very mature, but can we really leave important decisions up to our teens to make? How much pushing do they need? How much room must we give them? Can we let a teenager decide she is not going to college? Is that her decision to make or ours as her parent? Share your thoughts right here.


  1. While Chenice does sound very mature, I wouldn’t let my child throw their future away. Some parental intervention is definitely required when it comes to college. That said Chenice, you do sound like a very respectable young woman.

  2. Wow! I am having this very discussion with my daughter now, and I honestly would not allow the year off but I respect Chenice’s decision. For me college is 1st and foremost in my daughters life. Although I did suggest the au pair idea to her down the road. Dani has no idea what she wants to do as a career path, and neither did I at 17/18 years of age. She will go to college undeclaired, and decide after her 1st year is completed.

    Chenice you go girl for leaving the nest, taking the time and doing something with your life! Your situation is completely different from my daughters. You are actually leaving the country and have a great job lined up, bravo and major kudos for that accomplishment! You’re not sitting on your ass trying to figure out what life has to offer while you do do some low paying meaningless job somewhere. You are actually making a difference in a families life which is priceless in my eyes! Enjoy your year off and open your eyes wide! Take care and have fun in NYC!! 🙂

    Thanks for writing Michele

  3. Thank you all so much for your kind words- I appreciate them.

    I actually received 5 offers from Universities here in the UK for my degree; American Studies with History and I’ve accepted one of the top 3 in the Country (UK) to start in 2012- less than one month after returning from my year as an Au Pair in America.

    As part of the Au Pair agreement, you have to complete a course (60 hours/6 credits) at an American college- so I will not be out of education whilst in America and I go straight back into the education system.

    I am very much looking forward to starting University and I honestly believe that by being an Au Pair first; I will gain cultural and academic knowledge to start my degree in American Studies with History, personal development and more independence.

    Chenice xxx

  4. You’re 18 and that’s old enough to live your life, experience things,go and see the world, make mistakes, learn from them and I agree with Alicia.

  5. I guided my firstborn through this decision, but the end decision was hers. I just helped her with the process of pros and cons, thinking through the possibilities. My second is heading into that decision-making realm now. We’ll help him, but we won’t decide for him. It has to feel right internally.

  6. Chenice’s decision is not “throwing away her future.” It is actually creating a life experience that may very well help her not only at university, but later in life. “Gap Year” is not a year off; for most it involves work experience, travel and participating in academic programs that many colleges acknowledge and accept credits. Best of luck Chenice and judos to you and your parents.

  7. Way to go Chenice!! Loved reading your thoughts on leaving the nest. I have two boys who are 11 and 12, but believe how we communicate at this younger age will have an impact on how decisions are made later. I would hope the choice about whether or where they go to college is an open dialogue where pros and cons of all options are discussed without pressure. You have a very bright future ahead and I would be proud to be your parent. Enjoy your time in the U.S.

  8. I have read all your comments regarding Chenice’s decision to go to NYC and I feel very proud to be her grandmother, A lot of heartache, long chats with family and thoughts from Chenice to make her choice, and over several months,to give her the courage to make this decison. I for one with her grandad and I know her parents will miss her terribly but we know she is mature enough to really make this work. Her education has always been first and foremost in her life, she has always dedicated herself to doing well throughout all her early years at school. I am so proud of her.

  9. I wish I had Chenice’s confidence when I was her age.

    Actually, even now my parents find it hard letting me go and allowing me to make my own decisions. Perhaps they don’t physically stop me but snide remarks and constant guilt trips are their chosen ammo. Do all parents resort to that kind of drama even when their kids are 25 years old?

    Nevertheless, kudos to you Chenice for stepping out of your comfort zone and doing something worthwhile. I’m sure you’d be making a lot of magic in the future!


    ps: Kinda funny how some people applaud you but at the same time would never let their kids embark on the same or similar journey. My mom is EXACTLY like this.

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