Many families will be celebrating high school graduation. After 18 years of growing together, parents and graduates will be experiencing changes that include separation. After the joy of ceremonies and parties, summer will end, and the class of 2019 will be off to college, full-time jobs, traveling, marriage, starting a business, or other endeavors.
For parents, imagining a home without contributions from the priceless graduated-child is difficult. They are proud to have raised a productive and responsible adult; one who is ready to be successful on his/her own. Each parent has different emotions varying from happy and excited to feeling loss, fear, and sadness. Less laughter, involvement with school and friends, connectedness with other families, noise, and even the fighting requires adjustment. Parents could feel very out of balance; the primary object of their time, energy, and concerns will be out of the house.
Being a graduate is also tricky. It is stressful when people assume seniors magically evolve into adults when handed a diploma. “What are you going to do?,”or “What college are you attending?” gets old. College entrance exams are stressful. Many seniors don’t know what they want to study or how they want to make a living. Many are disappointed not to get the desired college, scholarships, or job. At 18, they are expected to go from a secure family nest into the unknown. It is not easy leaving a peaceful, safe nest. It is simpler to leave a place of turmoil. Therefore, many families have a rough senior year; parents, seniors, and siblings often and unconsciously ruffle the nest.
Parents of seniors also prepare for separation. Some start new hobbies, lose weight, get a new job, take up exercise programs, clean closets or garages, think about attending college classes themselves, etc. Tweaks in routines can soften the empty nest blues.
Seniors too plan for leaving. They might change friends, begin dressing differently, become more outspoken, rearrange or redecorate their bedrooms, pack boxes, spend more or less time with relatives, etc. Change is especially challenging when it involves those we love.
We might like to keep our kids safe and protected forever, but they deserve to make mistakes, learn lessons, and design a lifestyle fit. Parents benefit when kids leave homes, such as fewer daily responsibilities and more time for hobbies, friends, or just doing nothing. However each family transitions, it is usually with a little or a lot of struggle on both sides.
I admire, envy, and have empathy for parents and seniors as they enter endings and beginnings. Messing the nest is natural and serves a purpose. The conflict helps the process of separation.
If you relate to this message, you are either a parent, grandparents or friend of a graduating senior. Enjoy the ride—it only comes once.
Until the next time: Live while you live.
Jennifer Goble, Ph.D., LPC, is the author of “My Clients…My Teachers,” and the blogger and writer of Rural Women Stories: www.ruralwomenstories.com.
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