Graduation season is upon us! You’re probably starting to see pictures across social media of graduation ceremonies and celebrations.
I remember when each of my children graduated from high school, and the swirl of emotions I felt. Will they be okay? Did I do a good enough job preparing them? What if they don’t know what to do? Is it okay for me to feel a little relieved?
Today, we wanted to share an article for the moms who are still a year or two out from seeing their child graduate. I recently jumped into my Empty Nest Full Life Facebook group, and asked group members this question:
“I’m working on a blog post about things I wish I’d known before my child graduated from high school. What comes to your mind as something you wish you’d known?”
The responses were all across the board. Some were about the emotions and grief. Some were about practical life skills. And some were about marriage. I wanted to share them all with you!
Here’s what 27 moms say they wish they knew before their child graduated:
“To let them make their own mistakes and not try to always make life better. Pain brings growth!” – Mary Beth B.
“I wish I had let my children fill out all of their own medical forms from at least the time they were 16 (with me available for questions). Once they graduated and had to do it themselves, they didn’t know what they were doing!” – Nancy M.
“Just to be prepared for feelings of wondering if you did well enough. That really was unexpected for me.” – Amy C. (Confidential from Jill: You did a great job, mom. You weren’t perfect but you were THE PERFECT mom for your child!)
“That the best is yet to come…I remember the almost audible click in my head as they crossed the stage to receive their diplomas and thinking I wouldn’t be their ‘mommy’ anymore…now just their mother and their friend. It was incredibly bittersweet!” – Sheila C.
“That it’s better to make mistakes while living at home than being away” – Cyndi L.
“It’s okay to feel relief! I felt so guilty for being happy that high school was over!” – Rhonda G.
“Regarding my 1st son (I learned with the second)… I wish I had left community college on the table. Even with a 4.0, he strongly felt a junior college would have worked better for him at that moment, but I discouraged it. He ended up going to a 4-year, but leaving and going to junior college after a year, and is now graduating from a different 4-year. It worked out, but I should have listened to his wants!” – Noelle M.
For me the anticipation of them leaving was actually harder than the reality. I think that was partly because I saw the losses coming and was grieving before they left. Once they left it was more like, well, this is how it is now and there is goodness in this season too.” – Sherilyn C.
“Start dating your spouse again BEFORE the kids leave.” – Tamie C.
“Life skills are more important than book skills. Make sure they are prepared for the real world. And not to take their failures to heart. They have to make their own mistakes.” – Kate M.
“How hard their leaving would be. May have been more patient in the years before.” – Debbie C.
“How challenging it is even to have your adult child stay at home while going to college….the dynamics and the things we did together as family all changed.” – Wiebke P.
“How quiet it will be and finding your own way once again.” – Charlene S.
“How hard the waits would be for their texts from college… not knowing if they ate good or slept well! Letting go is incredibly HARD! Our kids were not partiers so a bit less to worry about, but always felt the need to know that ‘they were safe back at the dorm after the late library studies’ or ‘safe home from their unavoidable night walks back from the gym.’ Letting go is a WORK IN PROGRESS!” – Diana L.
“That issues in your marriage need to be addressed before kids leave; some things are exacerbated when just the two of you are left.” – Rita O.
“I wish I had known that when they leave for college they may never live under your roof again and family time and vacations may be over. I never gave this a thought. And my daughter married a week after college graduation” – Cheryl R.
“I wish I’d understood how hard it would be to leave him 12 hours from home. That initial drive away was terrible. He, however, did great!! I did too. It got easier with time and he flourished and matured so much!” – Lisa W.
“How fast the high school time would go and to invest more time and “presentness” in that period of life.” – Jenny G.
“How quiet the house was after the last one went away to college, but how chaotic it was when they would come home for a visit. They came home to be a ‘kid again’ (i.e. to sleep in, have mom make dinner, take naps, etc.) I loved having them come home, but was usually tired by the time they left. Lol.
I was blessed by being part of Hearts at Home for many years; they helped me fully prepare my kids to graduate high school knowing how to be independent. They usually had to teach others in their dorm basic living skills. Some didn’t even know how to cook in a microwave or do laundry. I still missed them greatly when they left and I shed some tears, but I was also proud of the adults they were becoming.” – Hana V.
“All the tears you cry were unexpected for me. As a single parent of one child that raised her alone since birth, it hit me hard all at once. I went from having her with me for 20 years to empty nest and no one here to lean on. Took me 2 years to accept that things had changed. The dynamic shifts a lot more to 2 adults instead of parent/child. I wasn’t worried about her making poor choices or being on her own because she learned all those things while being home, but the dynamic shift of not being needed as much and her desiring her independence and space was hard to adjust to.” – Charity B.
“That my job as a parent is to work myself out of a job, and the fact that they could go away to school with an easy transition meant I did my job.” – Sue S.
“Take more dual-enrollment college classes.” – Michelle B.
“A few things: That high school is really only 3 1/2 years long. The last semester isn’t a joke, but really…who cares? Also, to budget accordingly. This senior year spring has been a drain to the bank account. Finally, the kids will be emotional, so be patient with them. Excited, scared, so done with it, yet clinging to all their lasts, exhausted and giddy. This is all within a 5 minute window.” – Amy B.
“It’s important for parents not to complete tasks that a teen can do themselves. When we do this, we are delaying a teen’s emotional and mental growth. The teen can make appointments and keep up with a schedule themselves, for example, and this prepares them for what’s next.” – Jennifer B.
“They don’t need half the stuff YOU want them to pack. You no longer need to oversee filling out forms or deal with their red tape or be responsible for their deadlines. Also, after you drop them off, no matter how sad it is, do NOT be the first one to call or text. Even if it is days before you hear from them.” – Carol B.
“I wish I would have known that there is a grieving process when kids leave. It took me awhile to recognize that it was actually grief that I was experiencing, but once I identified it, it helped me to know that I would make it. I have grieved before and come through it and life will be good again. Before I identified the feelings as grief, I felt like a failure for all my parenting mistakes and wondered if I would ever feel happy again.
“That one of the most important skills needed to succeed in college is time management.” – Margie K.
“I just picked up my daughter from her first year of college so this was one of our conversations she said, ‘Why didn’t anyone tell me how hard it was going to be to find community and your people?’ She was very involved, had great roommates, did well in academics, and had a job. She still said it was one of the most challenging times she has had and nothing like she expected. She does feel this is where God wanted her to be. So even though it is tough, hang in there, pray, and continue to point them to Jesus.” – Julie K.
I hope this list was a support! What advice stands out most to you? Or what would you add to the list? Leave a comment below!
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These are so great! Tucking these away for the next couple of years when I have my first high schooler!
Yes, yes, and yes. Thank you for putting this together. It is very validating. As a mom whose last son was an unfortunate member of the HS graduating class of 2020, there have been so many losses on top of the finality of this chapter as a mom (and as a student for him). I have so many regrets and second guesses, and this blog makes me feel less alone.
Good. You are certainly not alone.
I identified with so many of these statements and feelings! With our son having just finished his first year away at university, it was really validating to read these.
I’m so glad it was helpful!