Emotions of Transition
From all of us at Advance LA, congratulations to the high school graduates! This is a huge milestone for a young person who has completed thirteen years of education. It is typical for high school seniors to experience mixed emotions as they participate in graduation ceremonies and parties. Feelings of fear, anxiety, and sadness, combined with relief, anticipation, and joy are all part of the normal graduation process.
For some neurodivergent students, graduation is often a very emotional day as it marks the end of high school life and all it’s consistent routines. There are good-byes to be said to friends and beloved teachers. The worry about what life will be like once high school ends can be overwhelming and cause some young people to feel sometimes paralyzing distress. Parents too can feel emotionally overwhelmed as they observe their child achieve a milestone they might have only dreamed was possible.
For some graduates, their next steps are attending a two or four year college and there may be fears about leaving home, some separation anxiety, or feeling not prepared for college level school work. Other graduates may be looking forward to entering the work world but unsure about how to start the employment process, create a resume, or what a job interview will entail.
And many graduates may have absolutely no idea what they will do after graduation but are trying to cope with parental expectations and pressure to succeed. For those staying local, there may be wistful feelings when seeing peers leave home for new adventures and feeling sad about being left behind.
One strategy to help with the transition is to create structure for the summer weeks ahead. The daily schedule of life for the past 17-18 years is no longer applicable and new routines will need to be made. What can parents do to ease the stress of this transition?
Stay Connected: Talk with your graduate about making it a priority to call or text with parents and friends. Highlight the importance of a return text when someone reaches out to them. And let them know some high school friendships may drift away as new young adult friendships begin and that is okay.
Make New Connections: Help your graduate to make their way in the world. If they are starting a new job, encourage them to socialize during breaks with co-workers. If they are starting college, encourage joining clubs, intramural teams, or affinity groups as a way to meet new people with similar interests. Let them know that you are aware that it can be hard to take a risk and put yourself out there, but the odds are most people will be kind in return.
Explore New Interests: Help your graduate find the adult equivalent of high school extracurriculars such as adult bowling or softball leagues, book clubs, or even an adult cheerleading group. Sites like meetup.com can help young people meet others with similar interests.
Adulting 101: Summer is a great time to learn independent living skills. Teach your graduate how to do their laundry, make their own appointments at the hair salon, refill a prescription, figure out how much to tip a restaurant server, and how to cook a healthy meal. If they are capable, encourage your graduate to get a driver’s license. And teach your graduate how to open a checking/savings account, how to deposit a check, how to pay a credit card bill, the importance of saving money, and creating a budget.
Have a Plan/Goals: Without something to look forward to or work toward, inertia can set in. Summer time is the perfect time to learn how to set a goal and take small steps each day to achieve that goal. For those who are struggling and need extra help, Advance LA provides Life Skills Coaching to help ease the transition to college or employment.
High school graduation brings many changes, both exciting and stressful. Celebrating your child’s major accomplishment is the top priority and just know that any and all reactions, emotions, and feelings are all completely normal. Advance LA wishes you all the best!
Jeri Rochman, JD, MS
Jeri Rochman, JD, MS, is the Advance LA Director of Community Outreach, a Life Skills Coach, National Board Certified Counselor and Certified Parent Educator. Interested in learning more about Advance LA’s services?