It’s back to school time! Or is it? If your child has graduated high school, this time of year can feel really confusing whether they have plans to go to college, move into the workforce, join the military or just occupy your couch for 12 hours a day.
There’s no real way to emotionally prepare your child for the transition from high school to adulthood. My kids never, much like me, enjoyed the academic aspect of high school. High school was less about adult-prep, as it was a place to socialize, to make arrangements for the upcoming weekend and to see my boyfriend.
I was completely shocked how my social standing changed almost overnight following my own high school graduation as my friends scattered the globe for school, jobs, the military and even marriage. I tried to prepare my kids for this inevitability, but you have to experience it to fully appreciate the impact it has on your life; a life you felt you had some control over just a hand full of months ago.
The social aspect of the transition is followed by a magnification of all of the realities that you now have to face as an adult that you could have so easily pawned off onto your parents just a short time ago.
Who am I? Why don’t I feel like an adult? Am I an adult? Is this what it’s supposed to feel like? Am I doing it right? I thought I should have all of the answers by now…maybe I missed something…did all of my friends make it to the ‘how to be an adult’ meeting and I missed it? Why does everyone seem to have it all figured out but me?
For parents this can be an equally challenging time. How do I parent an adult? Do I parent an adult? Why don’t they have a job? Should they have a job? Why can’t they choose a major? Why won’t they get off of my couch? Did I miss the ‘how-to-parent-your-adult-child’ meeting? Why do all of my friends have this parenting-an-adult-child thing all figured out?
Your adult-child may be a little resistant, but the best advice I can give is to be present. Allow them the extra space they need as young adults, but be there as they take their 2 steps forward and 6 steps back on this bumpy road to adulthood. Most post-high schoolers don’t truly want to be pushed from the nest, as much as they proclaim to the contrary. They need to be given the opportunity to ‘adult’ while still knowing that mom and dad are there to catch them when they fall, to be a safe place they can land when the going gets rough.
Help them navigate the challenges of adulthood, like how to avoid credit cards, how to pay their bills on time, how to feed themselves, even if it’s just top-ramen, and the difference between laundry soap and liquid fabric softener, because there is a difference!
My son is starting college this fall after a one year pause after high school. He is so concerned that he doesn’t know what he wants to be when he grows up. I’ve encouraged him, at the chagrin of most high school counselors, to take a couple of general education classes and at least one class that simple sounds fun.
Sometimes our life’s passion comes along as we are having fun, relaxing and letting go of the pressure to immediately figure it all out. I’m 47 and still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up. I feel the best I can do is love him and let him wade into adulthood with a little less weight on his shoulders than I had at his age, and the support to fall down and know that we will be there to help him back up each and every time he needs us.
Growing up is one of the hardest things that we’ll ever do and some of us never get there. Right now, I’m just going to cheer my kids on as they navigate this treacherous path from kid to adult, and be their safe place to know every day they aren’t alone.