Tips for the Parents of Graduates

After I handed out my advice to this year's graduates, some of us parents realized that this is a time of transition for us as well.  Maybe even more so than the students!  Seems like parenting is more than anything adjusting to the changes.  I remember when my kids were infants, I was always shocked at how often I needed to change out their clothes for the next size up.  Turns out that was only a dress rehearsal for the metamorphosis of the relationship........

So what are some things we parents need to know in order to handle these transitions successfully?  Here's what some of my cronies and I discussed-

1.  Applaud their successes.  Celebrate this time of graduation and pat 'em on the back.  Make it a big deal because it is.
2.  Pray.  This is point 1-100, actually.  Pray for them, about them, and with them.  Forever.  Pray.  Check out the link for Scripture prayers on the right for suggestions on how to pray for them.  Pray.
3.  Remember that your relationship is moving from one of control/direction to that of influence.  You want to maintain an atmosphere of mutual respect so that they will invite your input.
4. Don't be upset nor take it personally when they don't invite your input.  Expect that they are trying to establish their independence.  What this will look like depends on what stage they are in, how close to adulthood they are.  If they are still on your payroll, you should still expect compliance with your rules...but realize that the rules need to be adjusted to reflect their move towards independence.  This is a very fluid process and some personality types (aka ME) have a harder time adjusting rapidly.  But if you can manage to maintain dialogue about the process and they know you are trying to grow with them, they are most always very accommodating and forgiving.
5.  Don't call or text them as often as you want to.  And don't be hurt if they don't call or text you as often as you want them to.  Give them some space.  The less smothered they feel, the more they will (eventually) want to be in contact.  The reciprocal is also true......
6.  Affirm their adulthood (or move towards it) by expressing your confidence in them.  One of my adult kids responded to my encroaching counsel with "Trust your parenting, Mom.  You raised me to know what to do.  Now trust it".  That'll preach, folks.
7.  But do offer counsel when they ask.  Make it easy for them to ask.  And easy to admit they messed up.  In other words, if they don't take your counsel....and it turns out they would've been better off if they and encourage.  Don't point out you were right - they already know.  Empathize.  You learned some things the hard way, too.
8. Gently encourage them to remain connected to the siblings and rest of the family but don't insist.  Don't automatically make great Aunt Sally's church homecoming a command performance. But if there are some times you want them around for, give them lots of advance notice and then leave it be.  If they come, great.  Hooray.  If they don't, you can call me and we'll cry together but don't lay a guilt trip on them.  It won't serve your long term purpose well.

9.  Don't automatically rescue them when they fall.  Yes, they are going to fall.  And, just like that bike crash when they were six and that broken heart at 16, it's gonna hurt you way more than it hurts them.  Deal with your pain on your own and don't try to assuage it by running to wipe their tears.
10.  Be prepared for the difficulty of re-entry, especially the first holiday back at home.  You'll be so glad to see them and so looking forward to spending time with this newly minted adult...and yet they are more interested in re-connecting with friends from high school.  Yes, it stings.  Yes, it's disappointing.  But you'll all be better off if you bite your tongue and give them space.  Forcing them to spend all their (short) time at home will backfire and you'll probably wish they were with their friends.  I promise they'll get over this and eventually (can't promise when.........) prefer the sanctuary of home over the excitement of friends.  Just be there when they do, teethmarks on your tongue and all!
10.  Resist the temptation to micromanage life for them.  Even if they ask.  I read an article describing helicopter parents that interviewed Moms who regularly drove to college to do their kid's laundry,grocery shop, and clean their living space. Good grief.  They need to take up tennis or something.  A professor friend of mine has shared countless stories about parents contacting them to intervene about grades - for college students, mind you!!! Kids that are old enough to join the Army and defend our country!!! And a distant acquaintance tells me that she keeps up with her college student's course assignments, projects, and tests so that she can remind her what's coming up when.   Contrast that with one of my friends who wisely lets her girls figure as much as possible out on their own - she says "You don't need me to handle this for you - I already did 5th grade-- now it's your turn".  (In case you're wondering, her girls don't see this as uncaring at all. To the contrary, they are developing into mature, responsible, confident young women who are a delight for others to be around as well!)
11.  Cheer.  Every step away from home is further away from the security of being loved and cared for.  And into a place where umpteen other emerging young adults are scrambling to find their own significance....often at someone else's expense.  Don't miss any opportunity to find something about your kid to applaud them for.  Not to somebody else - but to them.  I don't know about you but I'll never live too long to not need an "atta girl" from my folks.  Having them think I've done a good job at something is enough to keep me going when the rest of the world thinks I stink.
12.  Make time to listen.  Believe it or not, they are going to want to talk.  Probably not on your timetable and usually not at your convenience.  Make time anyway.  One on one.  Even if you've got a gaggle of others that need you, carve out time for just this one.  Be available.  Change your sleep habits if necessary.  Learn to text or instagram or however they want to connect.  Be there.
13.  Enjoy them.  Yep, just plain ole enjoy them.  Be amazed at what they are becoming.  Be grateful you didn't kill them a few years ago.  And enjoy them.  You've earned it.