Graduation ceremonies begin in earnest this week for high school students, marking a time of transition for teens and their families. In our talks with graduating seniors recently, one theme comes up time and again: the intensity of mixed emotions they're experiencing. Bittersweet, loss, longing, hope, excitement, sadness, joy; at times of transition we experience all of these and more, and can feel these feelings acutely.
Teens aren't the only ones going through this time of transition; graduation marks significant change for parents as well, and they can experience the same waves of intense and complex emotions. There is a sense of looking back, to take note of how far you've come, how much things have changed as you've grown older. At the same time, there's a looking forward, with a mix of fear and excitement at what's to come as you embark on the next phase of your journey.
Many things change after graduation between parents and their teens. There's a letting go, a gradual pulling back to allow teens to find their way, while still staying connected to provide safety and a soft place to land when they inevitably falter along the path to adulthood. There may be a sense of loss at watching your child leave the nest, and perhaps some anticipation at what lies in store for her and for you. If you're a parent launching your last child, you may experience a sense of grief, coupled with a sense of excitement and readiness to embark on this next phase of your family life.
Don't try to rush through the feelings, or ignore the more painful ones. Allow yourself space to fully experience the richness of this transition, the poignancy of this moment of change. Allow yourself to feel proud of how far you've come, and to look with openness and hope to the future and all that lies in store. Congratulations to all the graduates out there! You've got a lot to celebrate.
In the immortal words of Dr. Seuss:
Oh, the places you'll go!
You will come to a place where the streets are not marked.
Some windows are lighted. But mostly they're darked.
A place you could sprain both your elbow and chin!
Do you dare to stay out? Do you dare to go in?
How much can you lose? How much can you win?