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Goodbye, High School Graduate, Hello, College Student

high school graduate

This is the time of year where many of us have teens who are preparing for high school graduation and college in the fall. It’s an exciting time for everyone involved but for parents it can be an extremely anxious time as well.

As you watch your graduate walk across the stage accepting their diploma, you can’t help but think of the day they were born and how many times you’ve thought about this very day over the course of their childhood. In many ways, we can only hope that the lessons we’ve instilled in them, and the adults we’ve groomed them to be, will help them enough so they become compassionate, effective, successful adults in this world. It’s natural and normal to be feeling some measure of anxiety at this time.

Oftentimes, the moment we drop them off on that college campus and say our goodbyes, we are already looking forward to their first visit home. But what happens when our college student comes back home and you suddenly realize they are keeping nocturnal hours, cooking up a storm at 1:00 AM and having different eating patterns; or suddenly can’t give you a time in which they’re planning on returning home that evening, or speaking of friends you’ve never met before. What happens when the high school student you sent off is not the college kid you have returning back home?

First, don’t panic. It’s a good thing that your college teen is expanding their world view and the way in which they present themselves in it. In many cases, this is their first opportunity to be independent and strive towards autonomy. Recognizing and accepting them as they evolve in their new world is half of the battle and can eliminate a lot of stress. It’s normal for us as parents to want to enforce the rules they once had to abide by when they lived under our roof; however, it is no longer realistic to have the same expectations. This does not mean that they can return home and do whatever they want whenever they want. Be realistic in setting new rules and talk about the changes that are taking place. Talk to them about the difficulty you might be experiencing in adjusting to this new college kid. Remember it is difficult for them as well to go from a semester of “no rules” to suddenly being accountable for their whereabouts, time, and friends.

To enforce control over our soon-to-be-adults will only foster an enhanced anxious environment. In fact, by relinquishing control and letting go, anxiety can be dramatically reduced. Instead, try getting to know your new college kid. Ask them about their routine, their new friends, and their new perspective on life. Make an effort to objectively get to know your “new and improved” teen. In doing so, you will realize that the lessons you’ve instilled in them are in fact engrained in their hearts forever.

At The Hellenic Therapy Center, 567 Park Avenue, Scotch Plains, NJ, we have a team of licensed professionals available day , evening and weekend hours. Visit us at or FB or call 908-322-0112.

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