Tips to Prepare for Your Child’s Graduation

Graduation season is upon us!

Whether your child is moving from kindergarten to first grade, elementary school to junior high, the halls of junior high to senior high, or to college and beyond, it’s a time filled with fun, excitement, anticipation and even a little stress.

I’m currently preparing for my youngest child’s high school graduation (a milestone for every parent!), which I’ll add to my current “graduation tally” of three elementary school graduations, two high school graduations and two college graduations.

A Big Transition for All

My personal experience has taught me that graduation is most successful when parents view and treat it as a transition spanning over several months, as opposed to a single event in time.

For example, a kindergartner’s advancement to first grade is different than a teenager’s matriculation to high school. Relationships with parents and friends, as well as confidence and self-esteem change, but they all represent an important transition for a child.

And transitions can play games with our emotions. So here are a few tips to make your graduate’s transition (and yours) a positive one:

  • Talk to parents of older kids. Learn from parents who have “been there and done that,” especially if they are in the same school system. One of the most important things to discover is the type of challenges they faced with their children.
  • Start talking to your children. Get ahead of the curve early in the school year and have short, simple conversations with your kids. Help them understand that graduation isn’t a “flip of the switch” moment, but rather a gradual transition. The more you talk, the more likely your children will tell you about things that they are both excited and worried about!
  • Share your graduation stories. Pull out old photos! Tell your children about some of your own memories. Share the highs and lows because the more they hear about yours, the better prepared they will be for their own.
  • Use a calendar. I cannot stress this one enough. The older your child is, the more “things” will be associated with graduation — rehearsals, class picnics, photos and many deadlines. Schools are usually great about providing information, but if you have questions, just ask!
  • Discuss evolving privileges and responsibilities. This goes hand-in-hand with talking to your children early, but really focuses on conversations (especially with older children) about what graduation means in terms of new privileges and responsibilities. I’ve found that the best family rules come from kids contributing to the conversation.
  • Capture the moments. Have your camera ready, but don’t overdo it. Make sure to take time to simply soak in the joy of the moments. Doing so will create memories far greater than a gallery of photos.
  • Stay in touch with your emotions. Take care of yourself! You’ve worked hard to get your child to this moment. Be prepared to feel a range of emotions in the weeks leading up to (and after) graduation. It’s perfectly normal to feel a combined sense of happiness and sadness. Your child’s growth comes with the bittersweet reminder that time flies.
  • Remember, they are still children. Don’t ever forget that your children need you. Sure, we want our kids to grow and find independence, but trust that they still need and value you.

When I look at the first five letters in the word “graduation” I see “grad” and I see a “u.” It seems like an important reminder for all parents that a graduation, regardless of the age, is a partnership. Congratulations to all of you. Here’s to a memorable, healthy transition!

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