I always get a bit misty-eyed around this time of year. I can’t help it. All throughout our hometown, people are hustling to spruce up their yards, the grocery stores have big graduation displays up, and delivery trucks are swiftly working to set up rentals for open houses. Suddenly the little girl or boy, who used to run to you when you walked through the front door after work, spend all of their time with friends or shopping for dorm room supplies. It’s an emotional roller coaster.
We’ve been there. We know the emotion. Kristin and I have gone through 2 high school graduations, and stood by hundreds of parents over the past 17 years as they’ve tearfully released their child into the next chapter of life. It’s a brutal mixture of joy, sorrow, happiness, and loss. We’ve sat down with frustrated teenagers and challenged them to cut their parents some slack. We’ve reminded them that while this is an exciting step for them, it’s an emotional step for mom and dad.
No doubt this time of year is tough for parents of graduates. After all, change is never easy or free of painful adjustments. While you may feel overwhelmed, truth is, you can survive this. I know because I have, and I will in the future. Graduation survival begins by understanding a few practical ideas about this new season you’re moving in to.
Let Them Go.
Many years ago I heard a preacher say in a sermon, “You should begin releasing your child the day they are born.” I agree with that to some degree. The more willing you are to release your child, especially now that they’re graduating, the deeper your relationship with them will eventually become. The more you allow your child to experience life, fail at some things, test the limits, and explore the world around them, the better off you’ll be when they step out of the nest.
If you’re parenting them consistently, and with diligence, you’ve established healthy boundaries and your child knows them. Now it’s time to let them fly. It’s healthy. If you spend all of your time trying to shelter them from the world, you will end up with a child who struggles to navigate the world. It’s time to let them go. They are going to go whether you like it or not, so be intentional and release them. They will always be your baby.
Your Parenting Is Changing.
The biggest thing you have to grasp is that your parenting is about to change. It will never be like it used to be and that’s okay. Your child is off to chart their own course (unless they keep living in your basement.. :-)). This great big world is theirs to explore. You have to figure out what your parenting role is through this.
I’ll give you a hint- it will be more of a friendship. You will wind up frustrated and desperate if you try to parent your graduated child the same way you did when they were a Jr. High or High School student.
By all means, if they go to college and make poor choices, step in. But, understand that you will no longer parent the way you did the previous 18 years. Take the opportunity to begin relating to them, and conversing with them as a fellow adult. It might be weird at first, but you will grow to love it.
Trust Your Investment.
I have a financial advisor who takes all of the money I send to him and invests it in time-tested, proven mutual funds that are aggressive in growth. I trust the investments I’m making. And, I trust him.
If you’ve spent the past 18 years guiding your child, establishing healthy boundaries that help them grown and make wise choices, your investment is about to pay off. Maybe not immediately after they move the tassel on their cap, but in due time, it will. Your hope, and prayer, is that your child walk out of your house, and into the world, prepared to make wise choices.
Years of good investment (spiritual, moral, ethical, integrity & character), will result in this. If you’re a parent of younger children, here’s some valuable advice: Invest in your children every single day. Parent them with consistency, integrity and character. Set up clear boundaries for them. Although it can be very daunting and sometimes very exhausting it is worth it in the long run. Ask any parent of a graduate and they’ll agree.
Release Your Emotion.
It’s okay to lament. It’s okay to shed tears and hug them a little longer and a little tighter. After all, this is your baby. While they are dreaming of what their dorm room will look like, or the interesting people they’ll meet in the world, you are reminiscing back to their first day of Kindergarten. So, let the tears flow. You don’t have to be super-strong over these next several weeks.
Your baby bird is about to jump out of the nest. Stand back and watch them fly!
Parents of past graduates, or recent graduates, what else would you add to this post?