Just as transitioning into college can be challenging for many young adults, graduating and leaving behind the familiar world of a student can be equally difficult. Along with fulfilling graduation requirements and job hunting comes moving and saying goodbye to close friends. Many students feel conflicting emotions as they are congratulated for marking this milestone; pride in their accomplishments may be mixed with concern for their futures and sadness over the losses they are facing. As a parent, you may be focused on celebrating your student's upcoming graduation, but letting her know that you understand the challenges involved in transitioning out of college may help her to open up about what she is thinking and feeling during this time.
With the recent economic slump, many students may be especially anxious about their job prospects. Some students will react to this stress by piling on the internships and networking opportunities; others will avoid activities related to job seeking or applying to graduate school in an effort to avoid the distress associated with these endeavors. Check in with your child to gauge how he is handling this issue and what, if any, support he may want or need. Some students may benefit from encouragement or a reminder about resources for career advising on campus, while others may just need someone to listen to their concerns and reassure them. However, most students will not respond well if they feel you are applying additional pressure or have unrealistic expectations about what their post-graduate life will entail. For young adults in this generation, the path to employment is often winding, so be understanding if your child does not go straight into graduate school or to work in a career-related job. Think carefully about how to most effectively approach this topic with your child.
Deciding where to live following graduation may be another source of stress for seniors. Increasingly, students are returning home when they finish college. A Pew study conducted in December of 2011 found that 53% of young adults age 18-24 reported living with their parents at some point in the last few years, and 40% reported that they currently live with their parents. Such living arrangements create new sets of challenges for families as individuals re-adjust to living together, but they can also lead to unforeseen benefits. Forty-one percent of 18- to 24-year-olds in the Pew study reported that "living with their parents at this stage of life has been good for their relationship, while only 12% say it's been bad for the relationship" (Parker, 2011). If your child plans to return home after graduation, take some time to think about your expectations of the arrangement, and communicate these early on. Discussing a timeline with your child may also help to ensure you are on the same page about how long the stay will last. Remember that your student has grown and changed during college. Be open to listening to his perspective and collaborating on house rules.
As your child prepares to graduate, she faces many unknowns and so do you. This uncertainty can create anxiety for both of you. It may be tempting to step in and try to rescue your child by providing a plan for what you believe she should do next, but as she enters this new phase it will be important for her to be able to navigate her own way. At the same time, the support, patience, and love you provide will be more valuable than ever. College graduation marks another important transition and is an exciting opportunity to celebrate both past accomplishments and what lies ahead as your child continues to develop into an independent adult.
Parker, Kim. The boomerang generation: Feeling ok about living with mom and dad. Pew Research Center. http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/files/2012/03/PewSocialTrends-2012-BoomerangGeneration.pdf