By Wendy Arronson
June has arrived and millions of high school seniors are hunkered down studying for finals. With the finish line clearly visible and the days to graduation’s pomp and circumstance only a few weeks away, teens across the country are looking forward to a well-deserved celebration. While parents are proud of their child’s accomplishments, they may be experiencing a bittersweet range of emotions as they deal with high school graduation, the pandemonium that surrounds the end of the school year and the fact that their baby has grown up and will soon leave for college.
Licensed psychotherapist Wendy Aronsson, author of Refeathering the Empty Nest: Life After the Children Leave (Rowman & Littlefield) sat down with TV host Katie Couric on her daytime talk show June 4 to discuss this important topic that will affect millions of parents, including Katie herself.
As a BookTrib exclusive, Aronsson provided the top five tips for parents on how to survive graduation season.
Expect a ride on the roller coaster: “Feelings of joy, sadness, pride, uncertainty and ambivalence will come and go unexpectedly and with frequency. Be prepared for a roller coaster ride with your feelings and know that you have plenty of company,” says Aronsson. Parents should know they are not alone in going through this important transition.
Keep your sense of humor: “Look for the humor during the stressful times. Laughter is the best remedy for stress,” notes Aronsson. While parents and students schedules are chock full of back-to-back events like award banquets, prom and graduation celebrations, parents need to remember to keep their sense of humor, especially when they feel overwhelmed.
Celebrate the moment: While it’s true that the final weeks of school are filled with activity, parents should take time to celebrate with their child, family and friends. Enjoy the moment and feel pride in all your teen has accomplished.
Plan ahead: Strategize for what’s to come so you can enjoy graduation in the moment and not be overwhelmed later. “There is so much to do before the departure for college it is easy to feel inundated. Try not to overwhelm yourself and in the process your graduate, which happens inadvertently with the lists we want to make for them,” Aronsson says. It’s important for parents to have a game plan as they prepare to send their child off to college. Knowing the specific items students can have in their dorm rooms is key. Much of this information is available on college websites, which parents should check before heading to the store.
Foster independence: “Use your knowledge of your graduate’s needs to help them predict and prepare for possible stumbling blocks. A parent can support their graduate to help them formulate strategies to meet anticipated challenges whether they are physical, emotional or academic,” says Aronsson. In her book, she discusses examples of how parents can support their teen while allowing their young adult to make positive decisions on their own. For example, a student with learning disabilities can identify a learning center and other on campus resources during orientation which they can access for academic support. Having a parent guide them in the right direction rather than completing the task for them gives the young adult a sense of independence.