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You child has graduated. Now what, for both of you?
You child has graduated. Now what, for both of you? (Flickr )

The day you have dreaded for 18 years has come: Your child is graduating from high school with the real world waiting. Along with all of your emotions are also a thousand questions:

  • Is she ready to leave?
  • Can he make it on his own?
  • What will I do now? 

Whether you are ready or not, your child is now an adult with all the rights and responsibilities that come with it. You will always be the parent, and he will always be your child, but the relationship will undergo changes. You will be moving into more of a mentoring role, serving as a resource instead of an authority figure. 

So how do you make the change from parental authority figure to mentor? Here are a few ways to start. 

1. Entrust your child to God. Most of us have heard of helicopter parents, or, if we're honest, may have even been that parent on occasion. For those of us who like to maintain the illusion of control, being a helicopter parent is tempting. These parents work hard to open doors for their children to ensure that they have the best opportunities available to them.

Helicopter parents also exhaust themselves absolving their children of all consequences. The danger is that children leave home without knowing how to do things for themselves. The other problem is that children never learn from their mistakes if their parents are quick to jump in and rescue them when they get into trouble. 

In Screamfree Parenting (Harmony 2008), Hal Runkel proposed the idea that we are responsible to our children, rather than responsible for our children. What Runkel means is that we have a responsibility to our children to be the best parent that we can be, but we ultimately cannot control the path they choose for their lives. Our children have their own free will in the choices they make, which will impact their lives long-term. 

As much as we may wish it were true, there is no specified formula that will guarantee that our children will make the choices that we would desire or turn out the way in which we would want. We have to follow God's lead as we parent our children, even though we cannot control the outcome.

2. Negotiate reasonable expectations. Your children may choose to live at home after high school or come back to visit after going off to college. Either way, you want to negotiate expectations and set up boundaries for staying under the same roof. One of the things you want to consider is how long they plan to stay. This is not to say that you should be rigid and have a moving date set in stone. Negotiating the length of the stay is more about encouraging them to plan ahead and have a goal in mind. Having a goal and working toward it will help ensure that our children do not stagnate and stay at home forever. 

Another point of negotiation is finances. Discuss and negotiate the amount of financial responsibility that you would like for them to assume. Work out a budget with them based on income and scholarships and determine what is feasible for them to cover and what expenses you would be willing to cover. Consider your expectations for how they will manage their finances and expenses if they will be living at home.

3. Be careful with unsolicited advice. While everything within us may want to step in and take over, we need to serve as a resource rather than decision maker for them. Most young adults are more willing to seek their parents' advice when they believe that their parents will not jump in and assume control. They often want to learn from their parents, but they want the freedom to make their own decisions.

Rather than being quick to offer advice, try taking a step back and looking at the big picture. Consider whether this is an opportunity to offer advice or whether you should re-evaluate and see if your expertise is requested. Don't take offense if your children seek advice from other trusted adults. Once they step into the real world, our children learn that there are a variety of ways of doing things and different perspectives on situations.

They want to take these alternatives into consideration. They may also want to show you that they have matured into young adults by making their own decisions. If you are careful with unsolicited advice and patient when they make mistakes, they are likely to come to you in the future when in need. 

4. Help them prepare to leave. While we want to be careful with unsolicited advice, it may be worthwhile to spend some of your last months helping them prepare for what is to come. Collaborate with them on managing their time and money once away from home. Research has shown that the first two weeks of college set the course for the rest of college. 

Many of us have always attended the church that our parents have chosen. Going away to college often is the first time that your teen will be in a position to choose a church. Talk to your children about what they should look for in a church and what types of things they should take into consideration. It may even be helpful to visit some churches together and to discuss observations. (Also Read: 5 Things that Will Help Your Teen's Spiritual Life in College)

5. Have your own life. We make a mistake when we allow our world to revolve around our children. No doubt, our children should be a top priority, but it is unhealthy for every part of us to be wrapped up in them. Our children are not able to have a healthy sense of self if we are constantly making decisions for them or telling them how to think and feel about certain things. We need relationships with other adults. We need hobbies and lives of our own.

During this new season of life, take inventory of your personal, family and work situations. Are there children still in your home who need your attention? Are there hobbies or other special projects that you have been putting off for years? Maybe this is the time to pursue one of those special projects.

Your child graduating from high school does not mean that you are no longer the parent or that you are no longer involved in their lives in a meaningful way. Rather, their graduation signifies the closing of one chapter in life and the opening of another. This new chapter of life comes with a redefinition of roles and boundaries with our now adult children. 

Conversation Starters

1. What are you looking forward to the most about life after graduation? 

2. Is there anything you are afraid of or nervous about?

3. What do you need most from us going forward?

4. What are your biggest goals for the next year? 

5. What's something you'll miss about the way things have been?

How can we pray for you?

Article courtesy of Parenting Teens magazine.

Brooke Osborn serves as the associate director of clinical training in the department of psychology and counseling at the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. As a licensed professional counselor and a licensed marriage and family therapist, she also maintains a private counseling practice, where she enjoys working with adolescents and their families. She and her husband, Patton, have been married for more than 10 years.

For the original article, visit lifeway.com.

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