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Parent’s Letting Go

Mother and Daughter at Graduation


Jenn Curtis, Guest Post

One of the most notable things about this time of year is the shared and pervasive experience of simultaneous ending and beginning.  After all, the meaning of the word “commencement” is not that something is coming to an end, but rather it is the celebration of the start of a new chapter.  Graduation ceremonies bring incredible promise, tearful recollections of memories held dear, farewells to longtime friends.  This time of year is not only a landmark in the lives of high school students, but it is also a milestone in the lives of their parents.


It is around graduation time that the realization of losing one’s child to 4 years of immeasurable growth and development is imminent.  It is the ending of one chapter of your relationship with your child, and the beginning of another; this is a bittersweet realization that can be anxiety inducing.


Given the difficulty of navigating this momentous change, I would like to offer some suggestions about how to ease the transition:


Plan to communicate. Let your college-age child know that despite the fact that you might be hundreds of miles apart, you’ll remain just a phone call away.  Reassure them that you are always available for support, encouragement, venting, or even just for a quick “hello.”  When you do speak with them over the phone, allow them to fill you in on their new life as they experience it—and try to withhold judgment and unsolicited advice.


Set expectations. Your anxiety will be in check when you discuss the rules before your child leaves.  Is there a GPA or other learning objective that your child is expected to maintain?  What part of the expenses will you cover, and what do you expect him or her to cover?  Will you come up with a budget and what will happen if your child does not stick to it?  What are the consequences if expectations are not met?


Be open.  Just as you are experiencing disparate emotions, your child is likewise doing the same.  Encourage an open dialogue about your child’s emotions, and try to convey your excitement for your child’s impending growth and independence.


Embrace free time.  A child flying the coop inevitably means that you have more time to learn that hobby that you have been interested in or to cross off those items that have remained on your “to do” list for the past 18 years.  Make a list of the things you hope to accomplish in this new chapter of your life.

Author:  Jenn Curtis

Jenn is co-founder of FutureWise Consulting. The FutureWise Mission is to empower students and accelerate success.

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