So You Have A Graduate?

By Jessica Gilstrap, LMHC
As summertime approaches, it signals the close of another school year. Whether elementary school, high school, or college, many of us will be involved with the graduation of a child of our own or that of a relative or friend. Graduation is an event that recognizes accomplishment! It is a joyous time for all to offer congratulations and praise for the graduate. Graduation is also an event that recognizes change and “moving forward.” As we know, change in one’s life brings a multitude of emotions, fear, joy and sometimes anger. As we gather to recognize the accomplishments of the graduate, it is important that we acknowledge that underneath the joy of moving from one point in life to another, the emotions of fear and/or anger may be present. I recall that in high school, one of my friends was very angry because the school year was over, and she believed that all of her friends would be separating. She was right, but guess what, we all met new friends. It is difficult to turn loose of what we have today for an unknown future.

Here are some hints that will help as graduation approaches.

First, spend some time with the graduate and discuss what their plans may be. If it is your child, and more education is planned, talk about it. Sit down and talk through the previous school and discuss the highs and lows. Who were their best friends, and what are they doing this upcoming year. Be an encourager because even though it is a happy event, their future will be different than what they are coming from, which can be stressful.

Recognize that the emotion that accompanies change is often fear. Do you remember how you felt the first time you registered for classes in college? Do you remember what you felt the first day of basic training? Do you remember what your feelings were the first day of your new job? Well those feelings of uncertainty will be present with the new graduate. Just be aware of this, and be an encourager. Let them know that their feelings are common to our lives, and that you are there for them. Be open and share the feelings that accompany change.

Be available to the graduate to help them bridge the gap from where they are now, to where they are going in the future. They will need to talk to someone, be there with an open ear and an open heart. Remember, you will be doing something new someday, and you will face change when you “move on.”

Congratulations on your role in helping the Graduates in your life!

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