You can’t believe it. Yesterday you were teaching your daughter to read and today your watching her graduate from high school. Soon, she’ll be out of the house and starting her own life. You’re happy for her, but also a little blue.
If empty nest (or emptying nest) syndrome is affecting you, the thought of her first solo flight may also be making your chick uneasy.
Mark Boggie, Western Region Vice President for the American School Counselor’s Association, says it’s natural for students and parents to feel bittersweet nostalgia. “Besides the excitement of the season, students are ending part of their life. They may be experiencing separation anxiety and anxiety over what comes next,” he says.
He says similarities in the emotions of parents and their children can sometimes make the situation worse. Students deal with separation differently from their parents (some want to get away from authority ASAP), and this could lead to arguments about future plans.
Opening up two-way communication is the key to helping each other through the emotional roller coaster, Boggie says: “Give students the opportunity to open up. Talk about their plans. Don’t force them into positions where they’ll rebel because that’s exactly what they’ll do.”
Though your son or daughter may demand you treat them as an adult instantly, Boggie tells parents to keep in mind that trust and freedom are rewards for increased responsibility. And, this happens over time. “Parents should have some kind of control which phases into more student-made decisions. As long as you’ve given good advice, students will do that fairly well,” he says.
Are you wondering if you hugged your son a little too hard on graduation day? It’s possible for parents to over-burden their children with their own emotions, says Boggie. He suggests practicing moderation, “You can only tell your kid so many times that you are proud of them before they get tired of it.”
Boggie says the most important thing a parent can do for themselves and their grad is to stay balanced--try not to get too high or too low. Allow for some anxiety and sadness, but make room for celebration and happiness, too. Your kid made it! And so did you.