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by Brittney Schrick - May 26, 2016
Congratulations, parents, you did it! Your child gets the gifts and glory (as they
should), but here is a well-deserved pat on the back for you as your child graduates
from high school.
As you look back on your child's academic career so far, you may get a little teary-eyed
thinking about how quickly it all went by. You may remember your child's preschool
or kindergarten graduation when they wore a construction paper hat and took their
thumb out of their mouth just long enough to shake the hand of their teacher. You
may have felt compelled to look through your child's old school pictures or projects
that you have kept over the years and to think about the sweet, little hands you held
and tears that you dried. You may be looking forward with a mixture of excitement
and anxiety at the next steps your child will take. Will he be ok? Will she call home?
Will I be ok?
The short answer to those questions for most families is: YES! Everyone will be ok,
and they will call home. Whether your child is entering the workforce or going to
college, leaving familiar surroundings to move toward adulthood is a difficult transition
for everyone. You, as a parent, want your child to succeed, and you want to help them
in any way you can. You want to give them advice, an understanding ear, and some snacks
to take back to the dorm. You want them to call you when they need you, but you also
want them to show independence. You want them to learn from your mistakes, but you
understand that they need to make their own mistakes as well.
Here are a few things to think about as you and your family transition from high school
to post-high school lives.
If your child is leaving home to attend college or to move into their own place, it
is only natural to want to help them as much as you can. You may take them shopping
for dorm furniture ("Honey, you need a desk lamp! You don't have a desk?! I think
they're over here."). You may take them to student orientation ("Did you listen when
she said you can only get one breakfast on your meal plan? Make sure you have some
snacks in your room if you get hungry before lunch."). You may help them move into
their new apartment ("I know you want the TV there, but there will be a glare from
the window, I'm telling you..."). You may help them buy their books, go meet their
professors, take them grocery shopping, pay their security deposit, or cook them their
first meal in their new place. You may want to do a happy dance and turn their bedroom
into a craft room or man cave before the dust settles in the driveway.
Offer them help where you can, but be sure to give them space as well. They are moving
out in order to become more independent, so showing respect for that independence
is an important part of the transition. That may mean different things to different
families, and you and your family should discuss what that looks like for you. Do
you expect to see your child every Sunday for lunch, or are you content to see them
at Christmas? Do you expect them to take care of their own laundry, or do you expect
them to bring it home? Clearly discussing expectations and desires will cut down on
disappointment or feelings of being taken advantage of.
Regardless of how excited and/or sad you are about their departure, things will be
different around the house. Even if your child plans to live at home for a while as
they get on their feet, things will be different around the house. Your child will
expect (and need) more freedom as they take on new responsibilities. You will need
to set boundaries and to show respect for your child's boundaries. Not every child will call with daily
updates as they start their new schedule and responsibilities. Your child may actually
call you more often than you want them to with questions or fears or just because they are a little homesick.
Work with your child on finding a balance that works for you both.
Your child is a young adult now. They are leaving the nest (even if they plan to return
after the semester is over). That is a transition that may take its toll on existing
family dynamics. You and your spouse or other family members in the household may
find this transition easier if you have maintained relationships and your own interests
throughout the years. If you have stayed engaged with one another outside of the role
of parent or grandparent, you may have smoother sailing into this new stage of life.
Fostering those relationships as well as focusing on your work and/or hobbies will
help ease the transition to parenting an adult.
As you all attempt to transition from familiar to new, be sure to communicate with your child. To maintain your bond and allow it to grow and evolve, it is important to allow
your child to grow and evolve. They will thank you for it.
Congratulations, parents! You did it!!
Konstam, V. (2013). Parenting Your Emerging Adult: Launching Kids from 18 to 29. New Horizon: Far Hills, NJ.
Rubenstein, C. (2007). Beyond the Mommy Years: How to Live Happily Ever After...After the Kids Leave Home. Springboard: NY.
Stabiner, K. (2007). The Empty Nest: 31 Parents Tell the Truth about Relationships, Love, and Freedom After
the Kids Fly the Coop. Springboard: NY.