It’s that time again when parents and teenagers everywhere are gearing up for high school graduation.
My son, Ari, graduates from high school tomorrow morning, and I am very excited for him and ready for him to start this next chapter of his life.
But a part of me is still sad to let him go.
High school graduation is really hard for parents.
Even though this is my fourth time having a child graduate from high school, I still get a little emotional over it.
And for those parents who are experiencing it for the first time, I feel for you. High school graduation is a really hard thing to process.
For so long, we’ve been our child’s caretaker, their driver, their meal maker, their laundry doer, and their appointment setter.
For many years, our days have been consumed with making sure that our children are healthy, happy, and well-rounded human beings.
Most of all, as parents, we are the people who love our children the most in all the world.
So letting go isn’t as easy as it sounds.
High school graduation brings both joy and fear.
It gives every parent a sense of joy when they see their child graduate.
After all, it takes a lot of work to get your child to this point.
Still, high school graduation also brings a sense of fear of what’s next.
As parents, we wonder if our children will make the right decisions based on what we taught them.
We may question if they will be able to handle being away from home and living on their own.
Above all, we hope that they will make friends who will support them and lift them up instead of tearing them down.
We just want the very best for our children. We still want them to be healthy, happy, and good humans, but we’re no longer in the driver’s seat.
Fortunately, I have been down this road three times before, which has been incredibly helpful for me this fourth time around.
But it still hasn’t stopped the sense of loss that comes with a child leaving home.
Ari came home when he was four-and-a-half years old. He is now 19. I can still see his face when we met in the orphanage so many years ago.
It’s going to be hard when he leaves. I still have a couple of months before he goes off to college, but I’m already sad thinking about it.
I’m going to miss seeing that face.
But because I’ve been through this before, I want to share a few bits of wisdom for parents out there who are experiencing high school graduation for the first time.
Acknowledge their achievements and foster independence.
High school graduation is a big milestone for our kids.
Whatever they decide to do next, whether it’s going off to college, getting a job, going to a trade school, or starting their own business, whatever it is—support them.
This milestone is such a huge transition for them. All of a sudden, they have a new sense of adulthood and a greater sense of independence.
Make sure you are acknowledging the good things they are doing in their lives and support them as they make their own choices.
It’s their time to find their place in the world. As parents, we get to watch from the sideline, cheering them on every step of the way.
Of course, they are still going to come home for their breaks. And they’re still going to want you to do their laundry and make them food.
But this is really the beginning of them becoming true adults and finding their own way in the world.
We need to acknowledge and foster that independence.
Promote effective communication and be a source of emotional support.
As our children enter adulthood, it’s important for us as parents to make sure we have an open line of communication with them.
Be available to listen to their concerns, be willing to provide guidance when needed, and always offer support and understanding.
Our young adults are facing some of the hardest challenges of their lives so far as they learn to think and act independently.
It’s likely every high school graduate is experiencing a mix of excitement, anxiety, and uncertainty during this transitional period.
As parents, we can help them by encouraging regular conversations about their aspirations, challenges, and experiences.
We especially need to be there for them emotionally. We can do this by providing a supportive and understanding environment where they feel safe to share their feelings.
Just because they are no longer children doesn’t mean they won’t need us. It just looks different than it did before.
The very best thing we can do is trust and let go.
We’ve been really fortunate in that Ari has had an amazing group of friends growing up. They support each other, take care of each other, and really make a difference in each other’s lives.
I worry that this may be a hard thing for him to leave behind. Although he’s not leaving them forever, it is a big transition.
He will no longer be surrounded by kids he’s known since the second grade—kids who know him well and who have become family because he knows them well, too.
I’m sure that for him, the idea of trying to find a group of friends in college who could possibly fill that void for him is a bit daunting.
But what I can tell you is that having gone through this three times before, they always have a way of finding their people.
It’s incredible what happens when we let go and trust the process.
As we stand back and watch them make their way in the world, we will be amazed at the people they become.
There’s nothing greater than to see your child grow up and to experience the world through their adult eyes.
This makes everything worth it.
High school graduation signifies a brand new chapter in our child’s life.
It’s important that as we move through this milestone, we trust in our child’s abilities and choices.
That’s really what it comes down to.
For all you first-time parents of graduates (and for those who are more seasoned but still feeling the loss), the best advice I can give is to simply give your child a hug and tell them you love them.
Allow your child the space to learn from their experiences and make their own decisions while knowing that you are always there for guidance if they need it.
I hope that when Ari goes off to college, he knows we are with him every step of the way.
Parenting may look a little different than we’re used to.
But we are still very much there—from a distance.