From the moment they’re born we start picturing the milestones – the first birthday party, the first Christmas, putting them on the bus for kindergarten. To most parents, watching their child graduate from high school is one of the most significant milestones, second only to watching them graduate from college or watching them walk down the aisle on their wedding day. But it’s also one of the most stressful.
Take a look at these milestones and you’ll see why they’re so important to parents. Each one signifies a new level of maturity. “We’ve made it to the first birthday, our child is now a toddler.” “There she goes, off to kindergarten, now she’s a student.” “He’s graduating from high school, now he’s an adult.”
But, wait a minute… did you just say “Adult”?
Whether you realize it or not, the minute your child graduates from high school he considers himself an adult, and in the back of your mind, you do too. And this sudden change in perspective will be confusing for both of you.
He’s expecting you to drop all the rules – no more curfews, no more chores, no more family responsibility. After all he’s an adult now, he can come and go and do as he pleases, right?
But as far as you’re concerned, the day after graduation is just like any other. You expect him to tell you where he’s going, who he’s going with, and you expect him to take out the trash on his way out the door.
On the other side of the coin, while he’s rejecting your rules, he’s still expecting you to cook his dinner, do his laundry and give him gas money so he can go out with the guys, while you now expect him to do his own laundry, get a job, and start bringing home some of his own bacon.
The transition from being a teenager in high school to an adult doesn’t happen the minute the principal slaps the diploma into your child’s hand. It’s a gradual process, but it doesn’t have to be painful.
In the past it was necessary for you to lay down the law every now and then, but now you’re dealing with someone who considers himself an adult, never mind how he actually behaves. Instead of telling him to do something, now you have to let him make his own decisions.
Once your child graduates from high school and starts thinking of himself as an adult, he’d rather come to you for advice and guidance, not the prime directive you’ve been handing down. He wants to be treated as more of an equal.
When you daughter comes to you and tells you she and her girlfriends are going to backpack around Europe for a few weeks this summer your first impulse will be to lock her in her room and throw away the key. But that’s only going to make her more determined to go.
Instead, talk to her like you would if she were another adult. “That sounds like fun. Where are you going?” is a great way to start the ball rolling. It may take more than one conversation but eventually she’ll tell you the plans. Along the way, you can offer suggestions – just like you would if you were having a conversation with another adult.
She may still decide to take the trip, but now she knows she can come to you for adult advice and you’ll help her make intelligent, safe travel plans.
Understand that your son staying out all night is his way of testing his newfound boundaries. Instead of judging him or threatening to kick him out of the house, treat him like an adult. Tell him why you’re upset, but don’t tell him what to do. Ask him to help you find a solution. It may be that his solution will be agreeable to both of you, but you’ll never know if you don’t loosen those apron strings.
After graduation you become more of a mentor, a sounding board, or, dare I say it… a friend.
This is a guest post. Donna Anderson is a freelance writer who enjoys small-town living in rural Kentucky. She’s an active member of several online communities and enjoys taking part in discussions that focus on how real people can live real lives in this fast-paced world we all live in.