This time of year we acknowledge and celebrate our high school graduates. There are graduation ceremonies and parties of family and friends held to honor the accomplishments of the students in our families and in our lives.
However, this is often a time of mixed emotions.
There can be positive nostalgic emotions about the friends and events that were so special to a high school student. These feelings meld together with a sense of deep satisfaction in their accomplishments. Don’t forget the feeling of pride for this culminating milestone in a teenager’s life.
Some emotions that accompany graduation can sometimes be hard to explain: fear, anxiety, regrets, and sometimes anger or impatience. Graduation is not only the end of high school but also the beginning of a significant change in life, entering a whole new world.
To this point, everything had been structured and scheduled daily for over a decade. The sudden lack of structure facing a graduate can bring on an unpredictable sequence of emotions such as loss and grief.
It is not unusual to fear what might lie ahead.
The sense of responsibility of adult life can descend on a high school student leaving them feeling vulnerable. Anxiety about what the future holds can become powerful and intense.
It is not uncommon for a graduate to have regrets about what could have been and what never was during high school years. There is also the insecurity of wondering what will happen to relationships with friends: will this be the end of years of friendships?
These emotions of loss and anxiety can feel very unsettling.
Because the world around these graduates celebrates, they still have moments of disequilibrium in which they can react to the smallest of events with anger and harsh words. Odd and counter-productive, some may act out or regress to more immature behavior.
Even some parents have interesting emotions during this phase of family life.
So, as happy and celebratory as these times are, we should recognize mixed emotions and behaviors that are normal and expected. We should not allow unexpected and sometimes difficult emotions to circumvent the joy, affirmation and the celebration of these students’ major accomplishment.
As we consider our high schoolers during graduation season, we should remember they are going through a time of transition. Realizing mixed emotions are predictable during graduation can help everyone be a bit more tolerant and patience during this significant and noteworthy achievement.
Gerry Vassar, President/CEO