Access to Education

Dealing with your child graduating from high school

Dr. Mabel Freeman
Assistant Vice President
Undergraduate Admissions and First Year Experience

Many parents are surprised when they realize that they have mixed emotions about their child graduating from high school. Even as parents feel proud of their student’s accomplishments, and excited about their future prospects, they may also be experiencing feelings of anxiety, stress, and uncertainty. It’s important for parents to understand that these feelings are normal; in fact, the parents are also going through a life-changing transition. Here are some tips that may help everyone deal with the transition:

  • Stress and anxiety are often created by the prospect of change, and graduating high school is a big change. Everyone in the family knows that roles are changing, but may not be certain about what come next. This is a great time for self-reflection on what we want from the future for both the student and the parent.
  • It is not uncommon for parents to remember how needed they felt when their child was younger, and develop a sense of not being needed now. Although your child is older and wiser, they haven’t outgrown the need for mentors to help them deal with life lessons. You will always be your child’s parent, no matter how old or independent they become, and they will always be your child.
  • This is a good time to re-evaluate rules and chores for the child who has graduated. Are they responsible today for the same chores they were yesterday? If they are moving away to school, what happens when they come home on break? Do they still have a curfew at home if they don’t have one at school? It’s not so important what the answers are, for every family is different in these transitions, as it is important that you sit down and talk through these issues, so everyone has the same understanding from the very beginning.
  • Don’t hide your feelings from your child or other family members. Its okay to feel anxious about change, and talking about it will help everyone feel better.
  • Don’t be surprised if when your student comes home for weekends or on break their priorities seem to be: 1) sleeping, and 2) catching up with their friends. They trust that you will be there for them, so they don’t have the need to check in with you as often.
  • All students will have good days and bad days when they go off to college or to work. Temper what they share with you with your knowledge of what they shared in the past. If they only call when they are down, then today’s disaster may be forgotten before they’ve hung up the phone, but you’ll worry about them all weekend. Conversely, if they only share good news, you might need to probe for more information about what is really going on.
  • Don’t be concerned if strong friendships from high school slip away during college. Your child will be forming new friendships that may be much more meaningful than those they have currently. New romantic relationships may also develop. This is a fairly common occurrence during that first term away from home.

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