This year I have received two unusual graduation invitations/announcements in the mail. One was for a kindergarten graduation, the other for an 8th grade ceremony. When I opened them, I have to admit I was taken aback, having never received these types of invitations before. I decided to ask my social media mom friends if this was a new trend, and they all assured me that this has become the norm.
During the months of May and June, kids of all ages will be walking across stages receiving the recognition they deserve for their hard work. Parents will be beaming with pride, taking pictures, and dreaming of a bright future for their children. We all want the best for our kids and we all place a good education at the top of the list.
Just for fun (and with a smattering of advice mixed in), let’s look at what happens after graduation, broken down by grade level.
When that cute little cuddle bug walks across the stage in his or her miniature graduation gown their future is an open book. You can’t believe they are growing up so fast and are finally (hopefully) potty trained, able to feed themselves, and sleep through the night. They will begin their formal education with a clean slate, but parents can make a difference in how they view education. Kids should look forward to school and get excited about learning. When you talk about going to 1st grade with them, let them know that if they listen, do their best, and respect their teachers school will be a joy, not a burden.
Your kids have made it through their elementary education and this is where the rubber meets the road. Your adorable little one has already entered puberty and the tug of wars have begun over their independence. You hold on tight because you know they still need you; and they pull away trying to test your resilience and your patience. It’s time to have a serious talk with them about high school and how important their high school GPA will be on college applications. Set boundaries, establish rules, and let them know that you will always be available for advice, support and encouragement.
If your teenager is graduating from high school you must be extremely proud. You’ve weathered the teenage storms, made it through all the drama, and are looking forward to the next step in their lives, possibly college. College presents a whole new set of parenting challenges. Before they pack up their belongings and head off to dorm life in the fall, use the summer to impart some wisdom (without lecturing or nagging) about drinking, hooking up, and the importance of balancing study with social time, getting to know new friends and having new experiences.
Only a small percentage of college graduates will be graduating with job prospects. If your young graduate is one of them, congratulations. If not, you may be looking at the “boomerang effect”--college students coming home after graduation. While it’s not the ideal situation, you need to set some rules and talk about what is expected of them when they do come home. Living rent free is appealing, but be strong and let them know they will be expected to find a job (even if it’s temporary) and their real job will be to find a permanent position in their field of expertise. If jobs are hard to find at home, encourage them to look for an internship to get some experience and network in the career they have chosen.
Graduation is a time when parents and children reflect on their accomplishments and look toward the future. Congratulations to every parent who has crossed this threshold. Concentrate on what lies ahead in the lives of your children. It’s every parent's dream for their children to be independent adults (at some point), and every parent’s regret when they do (the empty nest).