Dr. Joy on Stress of Graduation

By WEEK Producer

July 13, 2010 Updated Jul 13, 2010 at 2:46 PM CDT

It’s time for graduation. Within the next few weeks high schools and colleges around the Tri-County area will celebrate this joyous ceremony. Unfortunately, this life passage is rarely addressed in mental health literature, leaving families and graduates unprepared for the emotions involved in the transition. It is certain that both the graduate and the graduation family face new challenges, as well as anxiety and fears.

Common Concerns for Graduating Seniors:

· Seniors face long term consequences are related to choices concerning college, career decisions, and making it on their own in an uncertain world.

· Seniors worry about parent’s expectations, picking a college major or choosing the “right” job, financing college expenses.

· Seniors have concerns about losing close friends who are vital connections.

· Seniors have a generalized anxiety about the unknown after leaving the safety of the home environment.

Concerns of the Graduating Family:

· Parents struggle with being “empty-nesters” and wonder what life will be like without focusing on their child.

· Many parents have financial concerns regarding the high cost of college in the 90’s, as well as struggling with the complexities of applying for scholarships and financial aid.

· Parents report that they fear not “being there” to assist their children, noting safety concerns, and lack of input into their student’s life in a culture, which is unpredictable.

Suggestions to ease this time period and the adjustment process:

· Realize it is a natural life passage as well as a grieving passage (from childhood into adulthood). Discuss how you will still be there for each other during this time of transition.

· Discuss fears and concerns with your child. Open the door to meaningful discussion

· Speak openly about finances and budgets. It is important that everyone understands the limitations of the availability of money.

· College discussions should include safety/self care issues. Discuss safety concerns such as walking alone at night, protective skills for self-care, and issues of alcohol and drug abuse. It is essential that discussion center around daily life management skills such as time management, budgeting checkbooks, overspending, nutrition and health, and the importance of attending classes.

· Be open with your heart. Express your appreciation and your sentimental side. Share feelings of pride and gratitude. Unfortunately, many of us are still waiting to hear those words of encouragement in our adulthood. This is a chance to give your children what you may not have received from your own parents.

To submit a comment on this article, your email address is required. We respect your privacy and your email will not be visible to others nor will it be added to any email lists.