My 18-year-old is about to graduate from high school. In a few months, he’ll be away at college and we’ll be empty nesters. Wow!!! Where did the time go? Am I ready for this? How will it impact my life? As I face the uncertainty of a new stage in my development, my 18-year-old son is contemplating his future. He’s thinking about his independence, being away from home, responsible for his own education, choosing what to wear or where eat, without any comments from his parents. It’s easy for me to get lost in my uncertainty, to perseverate about my changed situation, to worry about things that may or may not occur. However, as a parent, I still have a responsibility to my child, even though he is now 18. I want to ensure that he is supported through this transition. I need to keep those lines of communication open, to work hard to be there for him, to comment, not judge, to love and support him along the way.
This is true for other developmental stages that our children go through as they grow up. We, as parents, continue to be caught up in how we respond to what our children are going through, that we don’t always automatically support them through it. Sometimes, it becomes more about us and less about our children. When they are not sleeping through the night, we complain that we are tired. When they are teething, we complain about how their pain hurts us. When they go off to school, we get sad and lonely. When the girls are mean to them in middle school, we feel angry at the perpetrator.
As parents, we hope to be able to separate our feelings and guide them through the tough times and transitions. This is not an easy thing to do. To put aside our feelings, which are deep and come from a place of love, to try to give objective advice.
Lisa J. Grajewski, PsyD. Licensed Psychologist says,” The transition from home to college is a major one for child and parents. Children are stepping forward to find their place in the world and parents are coming to terms with the idea that their child is taking that step. It can be stressful for both so it is important to keep lines of communication open and to recognize and validate any feelings that come up in this process. In addition to excitement and joy it is appropriate for parents and children to have trepidation and sadness. There is a loss involved and it is important to recognize all that comes with this significant change.“