When Your Senior Graduates, You Graduate Too

By Amy Meyers Steinberg

When our children are born, we think about all the milestones they will reach – first steps, first words, first day of kindergarten, first day of college … the list goes on. We imagine what it might be like to watch them excel at a certain activity, help them get ready for prom, witness them walking across the stage for their high school diploma. We beam with pride just thinking about it and often wonder how time seems to fly so quickly to each big moment in our child’s life.

My next big moment as a mom has arrived. My daughter is about to graduate high school and attend college in the fall. While her senior year has been much different from what any of us had envisioned – senior trip was cancelled and prom has become a much scaled down spring formal with no outside guests allowed – we are grateful that her school will be holding an actual, physically distanced, in-person graduation despite COVID.

A high school graduation is a BIG deal. In many ways it signifies the end of childhood and, for the parent, the loss of no longer being part of a local (school) community that we may have known for more than a decade. No more back to school nights, teacher conferences, or talent shows, which in many ways acted as social outings for parents to catch up and connect with each other. It also means the way we parent changes. When our child is little, we chauffer them to playdates and birthday parties, put them on the bus to school, help them do their homework, and attend as many extracurricular events as we can.

As high schoolers, especially once they receive their driver’s license, they rely less on us, yet we are still a presence in their lives. We still remind them to get their homework done, not to stay up too late, to be home at a decent hour, etc. As they embark on their college years, it will no longer be our responsibility to remind them to do their work and ensure they succeed. We can cheer them on from a distance and hope we taught them well, but we need to let go.

As parents, we may feel a profound loss of that phase of their lives because that part is ending for us as well, especially if it is our youngest or only child. So how do we, as parents, let go of the loss we feel and instead celebrate the momentous occasion of completing high school? The transition is not easy but here are some tips to let go, enjoy these moments, and stay connected:

  • Own your feelings. It’s okay to be sad and joyous at the same time. Your feelings are a normal part of the transition process.
  • Look at this as a new, exciting chapter of your life. Remind yourself that you now have a newfound freedom and the opportunity to focus on something other than your child.
  • Find new ways to connect with other parents. Whether through similar interests and hobbies or mutual friends, continue to cultivate the friendships you have built thanks to your child.
  • Attend alumni programs or other school events. Frequently, your local (school) community will offer opportunities to get involved to the larger community – take advantage!
  • Make a date for mini reunions. School breaks are a great moment to bring both parents and children together to catch up.
  • Feel proud. Remind yourself often what your child has accomplished and what future endeavors hold for them.
  • Remember that you helped your child get to this point in their life. Your love and encouragement have helped transform them into the person they are today.

You have given your child their wings. Let them fly and trust they will soar to great heights. Meanwhile, enjoy your alone time, follow your own dreams, and make new memories for yourself.

Amy Meyers Steinberg is a Volunteer Coordinator at Jewish Community Services

JCS is a comprehensive human services organization providing a broad range of services that meet the diverse, multi-dimensional needs of individuals and families throughout Central Maryland. To learn more, visit jcsbalt.org or call 410-466-9200.

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