Operation: High School Graduation

Graduation & Parenting
One minute they were in diapers and now they are getting ready to graduate from high school! For the past 12 years you and your child have been preparing for this milestone! Congratulations!
Your child’s life is literally beginning. It’s a blank Canvas they get to paint. In the midst of celebrating becoming a full fledged grown up, have you noticed your son/daughter appears to be a little anxious? Overwhelmed? Sad? Are they fearful of this transition into adulthood?

How can a parent help?

Seek to understand:

Whether your young adult plans to attend state college, community college, join the military or just work it is a time of stepping into a new paradigm. Our children have grown up operating under our direction, guidance and supervision. Parental involvement with adolescents occurs on a spectrum. Parents range from complete immersion in their child’s transformation from adolescents into adulthood to a very hands off approach. No matter where a family falls on the spectrum most teens have had some type of framework of expectations to operate within.
Compare it to artwork. At birth, our children are given a piece of art to create; their very own life. They start out with a paint my numbers set. All they have to do is follow the instructions and look at what they get to create! As they mature, fewer parts of the picture are numbered. They guess and fill it in. If they make a mistake its okay: the “picture” has been laid out before them. All of their lives, our kids can’t wait to be in charge of themselves. I have seen many kids who are not prepared for the reality of adulthood when it’s imminent All of a sudden, someone switched their paint by numbers set with a blank canvas. There is bound to be initial panic on their part. ” What if I make a mistake…what if I screw the whole thing up… What if it’s ugly? What if no one likes it…what if I don’t like it…what if I can’t even come up with an idea of what to create?”. This is the anxiety many of our beloved soon to be high school graduates face.
Deliberately Ease them into it:
Did you know that as parents we have growing pains too? As your high schooler matures it is a parent’s challenge to evolve their parenting from micro manager to consultant. Be open and diligent in identifying areas of your child’s life where they can be in control and responsible for making their own decisions; where they work, how the manage their money, classes they choose etc. Give them the opportunity to practice self management in the safe framework of your family.
Normalize it:
Don’t expect your teen to express their anxiety to you. Don’t even expect they will be able to identify why they feel a general sense of anxiety about the future. Take the initiative to tell them while it is a time of great excitement, its not unusual to feel a bit apprehensive as well. Give them permission to have these mixed emotions. Reassure them it’s human nature to experience fear of the unknown.
Remind them they have been experts in transition it since the day they were born:
As humans, we experience transition from the moment we are born until the moment we die. We are all successful at transition- we have been doing it already without even realizing it. The ride is bumpy at times, we can feel motion sick from the ride or not even enjoy the ride but we are in a continuos state of transition. It’s called living and growing.
Focus on their inherit ability to adapt:
As living creatures, we are hardwired to adapt. It is how our species has survived. It is how every living organism has survived, bacteria, plants, reptiles, mammals it doesn’t matter. There no way we can’t adapt. Draw from specific examples in your child’s life to remind them how they have adapted. Examples are changing schools, going through puberty or divorce. They have always been successful at adaptation. Encourage them to trust themselves and trust in the process.
Assure them they will make mistakes and that’s awesome!:
Transition can range from being painless to unnoticed to just plain messy. Mistakes are made and to be expected. Point out some of their biggest and smallest blunders. Share your observations of how you witnessed your child grow from and the strengths they acquired from painful experiences. Let them know how proud you have been to watch their process.

Reframe the experience:

Provide your teen with another way to view the unknown. Equate transition as their own personal chisel; Transition carves the deepest recesses of their individuality and what is to become personal masterpiece!


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About Jontie Hays

Jontie Hays  is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. She graduated from Florida State University in 1993. As a private practitioner, she specializes in many areas including: Child sexual abuse, trauma, depression, anxiety, women’s health, couples and family counseling. She also is Supreme Court certified in family mediation and serves as a consultant to an international company, which provides onsite crisis response to the corporate community. She has served as an expert witness in family litigation involving children. She is a dedicated to assisting others in reaching their highest and most authentic selves. Through the use of integrative approach, Jontie embraces an attitude towards the practice of psychotherapy that affirms the inherent value of each individual. It is a unifying psychotherapy that responds appropriately and effectively to the person at the affective, behavioral, cognitive, and physiological levels of functioning, and addresses as well the spiritual dimension of life  St. Augustine, Florida is home to Jontie and her family. She has been married to her wonderful, handsome husband Jim for 22 years. They share two beautiful children Jackson and Jade.

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