Coping with separation anxiety when your child graduates

Coping with separation anxiety when your child graduates

(WTVM) - As parents it's something we look forward to from the time they're born… but now that it's here and my firstborn is graduating in this class of 2013. I must admit I have mixed feelings. I am extremely happy for him but at the same time I'm a little sad.

Parents who have gone through it will tell you time flies. It goes by so quickly, and you think, I've got plenty of time, my child is just in 1st grade or 5th grade, but before you know it, you're participating in senior activities with them, getting ready for the big day. Your child is about to leave the nest- possibly never to live at home again.

"That's what we all are here for right... to take the next steps in our lives so it's bittersweet."

Bradley Center psychologist Dr. Kevin Weiss says mixed emotions are normal for kids and parents right now. While you might think now is the time to push your child away to prepare them to be on their own, he says the opposite is true.

"Pull out the photo album, look through old pictures, spend more time going to dinner with your kids, having discussions and reminiscing about things that happened long ago or recent because what that's going to do is make you feel closer, make them feel loved, let them know that you were paying attention."

As they prepare to head out into a whole new world, Dr. Weiss says it is also normal for parents to have concerns about how their children will do on their own.

"All the fears that parents feel about drugs, STDs, that kind of thing, I think they need to be talked about with the kids, but they need to be asked in the form of a question. They can't be told 'hey now don't be doing this and don't be doing that' cause if you do that that's going to repel them and they're not going to want to talk to you and they won't feel comfortable asking more questions about it."

Here's an example of how Dr. Weiss says you could start a conversation with your child.

"What would you do if you were offered marijuana, what would you do if you were drunk at a party and couldn't drive home. I'm not there, who you gonna call?" said Dr. Weiss

Keep the dialogue open and honest he says, helping your child come up with solutions to problems. That will make them and you feel better. Dr. Weiss says right now parents have to find that balance between holding on to their children and letting go.

"You have to make sure to show them that you care for them, but also you want to give them enough freedom to show you respect them and that's hard to do... It's hard, it's a hard balance."

It is absolutely hard, maybe even harder on the parents than the kids.  Knowing your child will soon be venturing out into the world on their own is enough to bring many parents to tears, but Dr. Weiss says remember that it's a beginning and not an end.

"If you're able to really build the relationship and make it a good one, when they leave, they're going to come back and they're going to look forward to coming back and that's really what you want."

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