Letting go

(Brett Jordan/Unsplash)

May is a wonderful month. The weather is warmer, there is more daylight and summer break is in sight. It is also a very busy month, especially for parents with children graduating. Whether it is preschool, elementary school, middle school or high school there are sure to be lots of events, “lasts” and plenty of emotions. As a mom of a senior in high school, I am so excited to celebrate all she has accomplished and for her next step in Boston in the fall. But the thought of letting her go brings tears to my eyes. We, as parents, are the people who love our children most in the world, so letting go isn’t as easy as it sounds for them or us. So how do we do it without falling apart? Here are some tips I am going to try myself –

Check in: The end of the year has lots of fun events leading up to graduation. We are going to try to live in the moment and not focus on all the “lasts.” With all the events there is a lot of pressure to commemorate and celebrate with classmates, friends and family. Check in with your child and plan together how to celebrate. It may be a family party or a gathering with your friends but if it all feels too much, it is ok to keep it simple and not overdo it. It doesn’t mean you love them any less, or are any less proud of their accomplishments. It is also a busy time so plan ahead and work together to make any celebration fun and not something that adds to everyone’s stress. With all the fun and excitement of the end of school and graduation, also check in to make sure that your child is taking care of themselves. Eating good foods, staying hydrated, and getting exercise are all key parts to taking care of our physical and mental health during big life transitions. 

Communication: Keeping an open line of communication with your graduate during this time is important. Be available to listen, offer guidance if asked, and offer support. They are likely experiencing an intense mix of excitement, anxiety and uncertainty and need to know we are there for them. We also need patience — our teens are figuring this all out and sometimes their emotions are misplaced on the ones they love the most. Be ready for whatever comes, whether it is their need to hold on if they want to spend time with you, or if they exert their independence, which can feel like they are pushing you away. All are normal. It is also important for us to communicate with them how proud we are of them and how we will always be there to support them. As much as we are also dealing with our own feelings of uncertainty and sadness, it can be helpful to express some of that — but taking care to not overwhelm our grad to the point where they feel like they have to take care of us and our feelings too. 

Change is good: Graduation and moving on to the next step are part of the cycle of life. It is what we prepare them for — and often they are more ready for it than we think, or than we are ourselves. If they are leaving for college, the change means accepting that for the first time you won’t know where they are, what they are eating, how much sleep they are getting, or if they are getting to class on time (or at all). It’s the beginning of a completely new phase for them and your family, and although change can be hard it can also be exciting. They are going to have lots of incredible new experiences and will be making their own decisions, and no matter how scary that thought is as a parent, I can’t wait to watch how my daughter will make her way in the world and see the person she becomes. We were driving recently, and I told her it felt as if after graduation, I was moving from driver to passenger and would try my best not to be a backseat driver. We will always be here for guidance and support, but she is the driver — making decisions and charting her course. 

So, for the next few months, my goal is to give my daughter a hug every day and tell her I love her. I hope this simple gesture will be a key part to helping both of us get through graduation and the upcoming months. Endings can be tough and the only thing that makes them easier is knowing that with every ending is a new beginning — and I can’t wait to see what she does with her new beginning. 

Liz Farrell is the mother of three children and the founder of TechTalks, a consulting group to help schools and families have productive conversations around social media and technology. Comments: letters@

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