High School Graduation: Letting Go Without Holding On

high school graduation

High school graduation is approaching for seniors; and some tearful goodbyes may be approaching for their parents. Your emotions will transition from pride for their accomplishments to dread and sadness as they move on to the next phase of their lives.

Letting go is never easy. But if you’ve done your job, your student is ready to move to the next phase of their life, which means living independently.

Questioning their preparedness

Looking toward the inevitable departure may be hard for the student, but it’s even more difficult for parents. You will wonder if you have prepared them to live independently. Have you prepared them for any obstacles they might face while away at college (or any other path they might have chosen)? How do you let go after 18 years of nurturing and protection? How can you possibly tell them everything they need to know? How will they survive without your constant supervision?

If you have done your job over the last 18 years, “they’ve got this”. They may make mistakes, make the wrong choices, and flounder around while trying to settle into independence. But it’s all part of transitioning into adulthood. They won’t forget everything you have taught them over the years.

Both my son and daughter can attest to that fact. There were numerous times that they heard my voice giving them advice, even it seemed like nagging at the time. Trust me. They won’t forget.

Moving forward

Senior year brings added stress. Fights have probably erupted. Your teen has been moody, silent, and even pulled away at times. These are all part of her growing independence and their preparation for living on their own. But as much as they pull away, they still need you.

As high school graduation approaches and summer looms ahead, find a time to discuss the future. If they are going to college, before move-in day arrives, find a time to establish some ground rules. Since emotions will run high, it’s best to make a plan in advance, mostly for your sake. If you know what to expect, you will be able to prepare and you won’t feel rejected when they say a quick goodbye.

If they aren’t leaving home, you will have an adult living with you and things will change. Discuss what you expect from them and talk about the fact they are now adults and have added responsibilities at home.

Preparing for the goodbye

Emotions will certainly be bubbling up to the surface. They start at graduation and only get worse as the future approaches. Don’t make this an overly-emotional goodbye and cry buckets of tears in front of them if they are leaving for college or moving away from home to pursue other paths. If you must, do it in the car on the drive home (that’s what I did). They will already be stressed and overwhelmed with the whole scenario. The last thing they need is for you to make it difficult for them to say goodbye.

Your heart will break. A part of you is leaving and moving on to adulthood. It’s normal for you to feel all the emotions you are feeling. Just feel them after you say goodbye.

Adjusting to the new normal

Four of my mother’s favorite words—this too shall pass. She was right. Time heals and watching them grow, mature, and move toward their future eases the pain of loss. Phone calls, texts, and visits help both of you transition gradually and before long, you will adjust to a new normal.

Celebrate their high school graduation and the fact that you have raised a strong, independent young adult. Your relationship will change, but it only gets better!

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