No matter where you live, this is an exciting time of year when school is starting to wind down for all students. High school seniors are preparing for prom, have survived the agony of waiting for college acceptances and envision a life being an adult. It would be nice if what appears to be a fait accompli on the surface was so beneath. I have the privilege of working with many families and included among them, teens who are now graduating seniors. What do I hear?
1. A desire to leave home becomes paramount to avoiding and or having to deal with more conflict.
2. Graduating seniors lose confidence in their parent’s ability to control themselves at events where each attends. They don’t want their parents to attend their graduation under these circumstances.
3. Graduating seniors are crossing a threshold into adulthood but we all know they are not yet totally prepared for the adult world. They express sadness about leaving home, fear about succeeding, and wonder how their fellow students will treat them.
4. Students give up hope. They have followed through their job of working at school, participating in activities and behaving at home and in the community. Their response might be: “I listen to my parents’ bad mouth each other, I know when the police are coming.” Parents lose their sense of hope and strength to separate their emotions related to a family transition from the rest of their world.
5. Students worry a lot about finances. They worry about being able to complete college, finding a job and having sufficient funds to pay back loans. Your gift to honor your child: I have had the opportunity to learn from parents about some of the things they have done to “rise” above the anger and hurt and focus on their children. They are totally focused on, and committed to, meeting their child’s needs, not theirs. They may have worked extra jobs to save money for a graduation party; they have stayed up nights helping with college essays, they are cordial and respectful to their child’s other parent. They practice and work at the process of forgiveness.
Here are some suggestions:
1. Behave in a way you want your children to remember you and this period of their lives.
2. Apologize when you cross the line.
3. If you cannot support your child financially, sit down with your child and discuss the financial issues. Brain storm and acknowledge your wanting to help your child source information about obtaining scholarships and loans.
4. Listen to your child’s concerns about school, and reflect with empathy what he/she is saying. Practice listening because it takes a lot more to listen, then reflect and empathize.
5. Remember what one of our youth peer counselors said many years ago, “Love your children more than you dislike each other.” As your child walks across the stage this year to receive his/her diploma, remember to convey your pride and unconditional love while realizing that there is no period at the end to parenting. Give yourself a hug for helping your child get to this point!