Well, graduation is over. It is not unusual to feel mixed emotions. For one thing, the build-up has been for 12 long years. Yeah, that’s a long time.
If you’re like many parents, the run-up to high school graduation is intense. It’s virtually all we’re thinking about. It makes sense that the post-graduation days can bring some intense feelings as well, some good and some not so good.
Hell yeah, I’m happy graduation is over
And why wouldn't you be? All that planning, cleaning, wrapping, organizing, cooking, shopping, etc.?
Not to mention the relatives coming into town, fighting traffic to get to the graduation ceremony, and trying to keep your Facebook pictures updated so people won’t think you aren’t thrilled about your graduate’s accomplishment.
You might even feel euphoric after the day ends, the relief washing over you. Everybody made it to the ceremony, your child didn’t trip after receiving his diploma (this is a fairly universal fear, btw), and you got all of the pictures you’d been envisioning for years.
Another reason to be happy graduation is over: it means your child is moving on toward adulthood. That is our job, right? Raising these independent, kind humans so they can be released successfully into the wild?
VERDICT: Perfectly normal to be happy graduation is over.
Was I the only one disappointed after graduation is over?
No, definitely not.
Post-grad letdown is a real phenomenon and is fairly common. Think of other “big” events in your life where you also experienced a sense of “what? That’s it?”
- Your wedding
- A splurgy vacation
- Game of Thrones finale
The build-up, both internal and external, can create an idealized version of the event in our minds and that can be tough to live up to.
Not to get overly deep and heavy, but when your child graduates high school and enters the next phase of life, it is hard not to think about your own life and how you are moving toward another phase as well. That can be sobering.
Nobody likes getting old and nobody likes change, so why be surprised that when you combine those two into one emotion-packed event, you're going to feel angsty?
Another reason to feel sad now that graduation is over: it means your child is moving on toward adulthood.
VERDICT: Perfectly normal to be bummed out when graduation is over.
How to get over post-graduation letdown
It can definitely help to take some time and really enjoy that post-graduation week or two-week period. Enjoy your family, your child’s excitement, the pomp and circumstance (yeah, I went there), and the specialness of high school graduation. It’s been a long road getting here.
Some tips on getting through it and allowing high school graduation to morph into a pleasant memory:
- Make some fun plans for the summer (ones that do not include college packing checklists or college to do lists). Having something to look forward to moves your mind and emotions forward with it.
- Look at the blurry iPhone pictures you took and remind your kid to send thank you notes. Ease yourself out of the graduation mode and mindset by tying up the loose ends.
- Similarly, ease yourself into college prep mode.
Kids feel post-graduation letdown also
Keep an eye on your child, too. It is very common for the graduate herself to experience post-graduation letdown or depression for many of the same reasons that we parents do:
- High expectations
- Very long run-up period
- Social media-driven imagery of what graduation “should” be like
- Realization that big changes are coming
But it is even worse for them, believe it or not. Add to that list the following:
- Anxiety about leaving home because now, that formerly vague event is now “real”
- Worry about fitting in at college
- Wondering if their high school romance will survive the summer
- Navigating that tricky purgatory between teenager and independent adult
Unfortunately, the list goes on and on. These feelings and working through them are absolutely a normal and necessary part of development. Just be on the lookout for any warning signs and stay tuned in to their emotional state.
Let yourself feel sad and then hop back up on the parenting horse
Once you’ve given yourself some time to absorb the event and even feel down in the dumps about it if needed, it is time to carry on. You must! You want to enjoy this last summer and it officially started the day after graduation.
To quote my favorite blog, “parenting never ends” and you’ve got the whole summer ahead of you.