Getting Through Graduation

Parents have a a lot of mixed emotions about launching their kids.

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The bottom line is that graduation--the weeks before, the day of, and the weeks after--may bring on a lot of intense emotions. Accept them. One of the best ways to accept them is to share them with others--your partner, your kid (if your relationship accommodates it), and most important, your friends who are going through a similar experience. One woman in Brookline, Mass., is hosting a tea for mothers of graduating seniors. It's her way of acknowledging an important transition and an opportunity to have everyone express themselves about what it means to have their kids graduating.

As parents, we should also be aware of our kids' emotions. There is pride, joy, and excitement, but there is also some sadness, which may or may not be overtly expressed. Kids graduating from middle school may feel the loss of a favorite teacher. Or they may be anxious about starting high school and separating from some of their lifelong friends. Seniors may actually be worried about leaving home, although most won't admit it. And there will be sadness and angst for high school sweethearts who will be going their separate ways. There's not much you can do about these feelings your child may experience, except be aware that they may occur and offer a supportive ear if possible. You may want to reassure a child who expresses anxiety about separation that you will still be available to him/her through phone, e-mail, or visits.


If you get along with them, great. They'll be as much a part of this joyful occasion as they have on other major family events. If you don't get along with certain relatives, but you feel obligated to invite them to the graduation, there's a five-letter word you must know about: hotel. That's the only way it will work with troublesome relatives. Even if you have to pay for their accommodations, it will be worth it. Politely explain that there will be a lot of tension on this important day, and everyone will feel more relaxed in their own space.

Former Spouses and In-laws
Graduations are one of those occasions where you can't avoid seeing your former spouse and possible other former family members. Remember to focus on your child and try your hardest to help the day go smoothly. For college graduations, there may be several days during which you have to spend time with your former spouse and in-laws. Planning to socialize with other families can help minimize the awkwardness of the occasion. Your child may be anxious about having both sides of a divorced family spending time together. Talk to your former spouse and plan, in the interest of your child, how to make the occasion as tension-free as possible.

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