Parenting: High School Graduation (Wow!)

Thursday, June 16, 2011
Jason Buckman (far right) stands alongside his classmates during the 2011 graduation ceremony for Lower Merion High School at St. Josephs University.

Jason Buckman (far right) stands alongside his classmates during the 2011 graduation ceremony for Lower Merion High School at St. Joseph's University.

On Tuesday night, I joined hundreds of other parents and family members who crowded into the field house at St. Joseph's University to witness the graduation of the Lower Merion High School Class of 2011. My son Jason, the school's Sargeant-at-Arms, was the first student to march down the aisle on his side of the arena. Behind him, hundreds of other graduates, whose parents were probably feeling many of the same emotions I was.

Before I became a Mom, I didn't really get it when people said that childhood flies by. Now I do. I really do remember holding six-pound, 13-ounce Jason in my arms moments after he took his first breath, as if it were yesterday. Now, he's six-foot-two, 220 pounds and soon he will be heading away from home to study business and play football at Carnegie Mellon University. And yes, it really did go by VERY quickly.

I know I'm not the only Mom who was pulling tissues out of her purse Tuesday night at St. Joe's and throughout these past couple of weeks on fields, in auditoriums and in gyms across the city and suburbs, as we watched our babies, in their caps and gowns, take their diplomas, shake hands with their principals and get ready to move onto the next exciting chapter in their lives.

As parents, though, it's important to remember that our parenting years for these graduates aren't over (and never will be I suspect). Especially at this time, we need to be sensitive to their mixed emotions, even as we deal with our own. They're excited (as we are for them) about moving on, whether it's to college, a first job, the military, or traveling. But, whether they'll admit it to us or not, they're also nervous, maybe even scared. The friends with whom they've bonded  in some cases for the past 12 or more years  won't be with them. They'll have to redefine who they are and to which groups they want to belong. They know they'll be responsible for many more of the practical concerns of everyday life  their banking, their laundry, making sure they wake up and get to where they need to go.

And just as, for the past 18 years, I've wondered whether I've taught the right lessons and set the right example, many of our teens are now wondering whether they'll be able to do the right things on their own.

In an online article on "Graduation Blues," Mark Boggie, Western Region Vice President for the American School Counselor's Association, says it's natural for students and parents to feel bittersweet nostalgia. "Besides the excitement of the season, students are ending part of their life. They may be experiencing separation anxiety and anxiety over what comes next," he says.

He says similarities in the emotions of parents and their children can sometimes make the situation worse. Boggie says it's important to keep the lines of communication open and not to burden your child with your emotions, both positive and negative.

Boggie says the most important thing a parent can do for themselves and their grad is to stay balanced--try not to get too high or too low. Allow for some anxiety and sadness, but make room for celebration and happiness, too.

And so, to the Class of 2011 and all of their parents and guardians, Congratulations! WE made it!

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