Soon we will gather around the dinner table with family for holiday celebrations and, if you’ve got teenagers, your relatives are going to ask them the same question that you dreaded when you were 17: what are you going to do after high school?

Do your kids a favour. Tell them to answer like this: “I’m not at liberty to divulge that information at this time, but stand by for greatness.”

This is better than seeing them shrug their shoulders or worse, giving up an answer that will lead to some relative spouting off opinions on how your student’s field of choice is useless in the job market, unattainable unless they get a PhD (followed by a remark about all that education and still no job prospects), or how saturated their career field is so they’d be better off to get a trade. But you better get the right trade.

Everyone knows better about the things they know nothing about.

Maybe your kids know exactly what direction they want to take, where they want to study and have a game plan for their life. Amazing. In my high school circle only one of my friends was clear the moment we crossed the graduation stage about what they wanted to be, and they achieved it and then some. Impressive. The rest of us though, we landed just fine without a map. Not everyone knows what they want to be when they grow up. Some of us still don’t.

Both my teens are college-bound next year or perhaps the year after, or maybe even never. Totally up to them. I say this genuinely. My children have been raised by a father who is a union carpenter, with a high-school diploma who turned an apprenticeship into a career, and a mother with a college diploma (that I am too embarrassed to discuss), followed by a degree in Canadian history, who chose to become a writer. Not every path is a straight line.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve taken my kids on college campus tours at schools far from home. It took everything I had not to apply. I want to go back to school too. I miss student life. I cannot believe I’m saying this, but I miss homework. I miss feeling like the world is wide open and full of opportunity (I know what you’re thinking, “the world is still full of opportunities, Kelly.” Tell that to my bank.)

I loved post-secondary school so much I dragged it out for eight years. Funny thing, I had so many people tell me I was wasting my time, my degrees wouldn’t add up to employment. Fair enough. I have never been hired for a job because of my degree specifically, nor did I end up working in the direct field of my study. But I also have never not worked. If I learned anything from student life it was the value of a work ethic. That still pays the bills. Education is never a waste of time.

I hope my kids will build a life, not just a career. It’s their future and as hard as it may be at times, they have to figure out their own path. As February draws near and post-secondary applications loom, remind your kids their dreams are sacred. Protect them.

Unsolicited opinions are like the relatives who spout them: a part of life we all must learn to simultaneously endure and ignore.

Pass the potatoes.