what your graduating daughter would like to you to hear

Every year I get the privilege of talking to all the SR girls of a local private high school.  I actually get to hang out with them a couple of times throughout the school year.  I also work with MANY SRs in my private practice and college freshman.  We talk about parents... a lot and they often give me great feedback. 

Know that I encourage them to have a lot of grace with their families during this time as it can be difficult for all, quite emotional.  I encourage them to be careful with their words and to "date" their moms.  Spend some extra quality time with mom as her anxiety might be very high and sadness looming at the real-world transition that is about to happen in just a few months.  I will usually ask them...

"If I could tell your parents anything about how you are feeling and/or what you are thinking during this time, what would you like me to say?" 

Here is what they say...

Why do you seem to all of a sudden be more clingy or controlling?  Often girls are confused by mom, dad or siblings seemingly wanting to spend more time with them.  They are not typically tuned into the fact that this transition is going to be hard on the family.  You may get a lot of attitude from your daughter during this time as she feels you drawing closer to her.  She is most likely ready to get the heck out of high school and does not want you interfering in any way.

Are you really going to call me or require me to check in with you 10x/day?  Don't do this.  It's time for her launch and she is scared to hurt your feelings.  College girls should not be talking to mom 10x/day.  It's not good for either of you.  Phone a friend and vent to them but be careful not to put that on your daughter.  She is going to be incredibly busy and it is not realistic, nor healthy for her to call you all day long.

Are you going to be mad at me if I change my major or choose one that you don't agree with?  I have been surprised over the years how many parents are demanding about their daughters careers.  She may want to be a nurse right now but what if she gets to school and really hates the major?  Can she switch to a business major and not be scared that her parents will stop paying for school? (yes, this happens).  She needs the freedom to choose what career path is going to be best for her.  It's good to give her feedback about ideas but encourage her to explore this instead of creating fear and dread.

I am worried you are not going to be able to handle the change and not let me create my own life.  This ties into the previous point.  In general she is worried that her parents are going to try and control all aspects of life even if she is in college.  She is worried about curfews, friends, dating and travel.  She is also concerned that her growing up is too painful for you. 

What if I fail at some or all of it?  She knows the pressure of high school academics and now she is worried about college.  What if she doesn't pass or if her grades are B/C instead of A's.  Is that still acceptable?  What if I can't be away and have to come home?  What if I don't make any friends?  What if I make terrible choices?  She is thinking about all of this.

How do I handle my parents when I disagree with them but still respect them?  It seems like they don't listen to me or care that I might see or think differently.  It's like, if I don't see it their way then I am wrong.  If you have a graduating daughter then you have probably already started to deal with this.  You might be noticing more tension and stronger opinions.  She is starting to "grow-up" and think for herself which in reality is a good thing.  Learn to ask open ended questions and beware of getting caught up in arguments that are really about power, not the content.  Teach her how to have healthy discussions about difficult topics and how to talk to people with opposing views. 

My experience has been that the college age is a time of deep reflection about life and learning to challenge beliefs.  That is not a "bad" thing.  If you jump on every argument it could damage your relationship with her.  What she believes at 18 is not necessarily what she will believe or think at 22.  Stay in it for the long haul.  Don't compromise your beliefs but be willing to walk through it with her instead of just fighting about it.  You want her coming to you with questions and discussions not just those she agrees with.  Show her the same respect you are seeking.

I am really going to miss you.  Believe it or not she is REALLY going to miss you.  She may be saying that she is ready to get the heck out but rest assured she will have her moments.  The homesickness will set in at some point during the first semester.  I encourage girls to try and at least get through the first semester before they decide to come home.  Usually of they can get through the first semester they can keep going.  When they call upset and missing you just validate their emotions and listen.  The more you play into their homesickness, the worse it will get.

The next few months will most likely have a lot of ups and downs.  She may start pushing you away to cope with her own feelings of sadness and fear.  That is typical.  I encourage families to focus on building some great memories and learn to not overreact to the attitude that is most likely due to her inability to express all the emotion that comes with high school graduation.  Remember this is a HUGE, scary transition even if she says she is SO READY TO LEAVE.