Your daughter is graduating... now what?

One of the biggest life shifts your daughter will experience is right around the corner...   graduation.  Most are not prepared for the emotional avalanche that can come with this level of change.  And I'm not just talking about your daughter!!!  Mom and dad can also have a whirling storm of emotions during this time.

In his book Necessary Endings, (fabulous book by the way) Dr. Henry Cloud discusses the value of life transitions...

Life has seasons, stages, and phases. For there to be anything new, old things always have to end, and we have to let go of them. Infancy gives rise to toddlerhood, and must be forever shunned in order to get to the independence that allows a child to thrive.
 
Later, childhood itself must be given up for people to become the adults that they were designed to be.
 
Getting to the next level always requires ending something, leaving it behind, and moving on. Growth itself demands that we move on.
 
Without the ability to end things, people stay stuck, never becoming who they are meant to be, never accomplishing all that their talents and abilities should afford them.

How are you handling it?

It's OK to take a few minutes to stop and really think about how you are doing.  How are you handling your own emotion about the change?  Often girls are so focused on their future that they forget that mom and dad might be struggling with the transition.

Sometimes it's easy to slip into extra-control mode during this time because sub-consciously you know there is only a little bit of time left.  I've listened to lots of gripes and confusion about parents becoming more clingy or controlling during this time.  It's normal but not helpful.

If you find yourself more demanding, controlling or clingy, remind yourself that it is normal to want her closer but it will ultimately hurt the relationship.  It's time for her to become who she was created to be.  It doesn't mean she doesn't need you.  It just means the level and type of need is changing.

Give yourself permission to grieve

I often tell families that is to totally OK to be sad.  Your feelings are valid!  This is a time of so much mixed emotion.  Parents sometimes feel they are not allowed to be upset over the change.  There is a level of loss to this transition.  Most likely she is attending college or moving out and she is becoming a young adult.  Even if she is staying at home there is still a sense of grief that she is growing up and onto the next life phase... young adulthood.

It's OK to look back over her school career to date and talk about memories, even share pictures and fun stories.  It's good for her too.  She may find it weird at first but it's a great way to connect during this time.

Sometimes moms come up with a cool, fun event they can do together to celebrate and mark the transition.  It could be a special meal, day trip, shopping or just about any other event that could mark this time as special.  I have also heard of giving some type of special token to symbolize the shift.  Jewelry is popular.  Typically it has value and would be something she would hold onto for her lifetime.

Focus on the positives

In general, our brains are more sensitive to negativity.  We have stronger emotional reactions to things that we perceive as negative.  If you want the technical info on this it's called Negativity Bias and you can read more here.

Many parents perceive graduation as a more negative time because of the sadness and grief and money (LOL) involved but in reality there are lots of positives... you just have to look for them and keep focused on them.  This will help with your emotion about all of it.

What is viewed as positive will really be up to each person but the key is that you notice if you are being too negative.  She might even tell you if you are.  Listen to what she says during this time.  Try to really "hear" what she is saying. 

Make the endings a normal occurrence and a normal part of business and life, instead of seeing it as a problem. (Necessary Endings)

There is always a different way to look at it, sometimes you just have to get creative in your approach!  I tell families, give yourself a lot of GRACE during this time.  It can be delicate for all, especially moms.