The tissues were packed in purses with care in hopes the tears flowing would not be too much to bear. The meetings, the deadlines, the forms to complete are all checked off. Cap and gown finely pressed hanging at the house. The tickets, oh yes, you needed a half dozen more! Announcements, party invites fill the mailbox too.
While the excitement builds for your child to walk across the stage to get the diploma they earned you feel whispers of fear. Whispers saying,” did I teach them everything?” Whispers “wasn’t’ kindergarten graduation just yesterday?” But the biggest whisper is “what does it look like after they leave home?” This whisper leads you to grab the first tissue.
When We Live Fearing Our Newly Adult Child Will Seldomly Reach Out To Us, It Affects Our Lives In Many Ways
Our sadness and projection of this unknown truth can impact us feeling happiness both for our student and ourselves. You have both worked incredibly hard, in different ways of course to get to this finish line. The idea of not knowing what your child is doing day in and day out causes a pain in your heart you cannot explain. I know your brain is telling you, “Momma, he/she has got this!”
You have mothered them……. you played roles such as uber driver, teacher, appointment setter, social director, birthday planner, every night dinner organizer, laundry queen, last minute school project life saver and the list goes on. While you juggled, prayed, even dropped a truth bomb word occasionally they watched you. I know it feels like they may not have but allow yourself to believe perhaps they did!
The Downside To Staying Stuck In This Place Of Fear Is That You Are Missing Out On Today, Tomorrow, And The Next Day
So much is going on and I know it feels as if it is all happening way too fast. You feel not ready to let them go. Breathe. Put on your life seat belt so you can watch, feel, and be present.
Not only does living life fearing your graduate will disconnect from us affect our mood, we start to exhibit negativity in a life space that many hoped would be filled with joy, excitement, and encouragement.
Perhaps for you it plays out in your life like this. You have dreamt about what this day, perhaps weekend looked like. The family and friends were invited, and tickets were purchased. Hours were spent finding clothes for all. Evenings were spent looking through photo albums, phones, and Facebook posts. Smiles, laughs, a giggle out loud with a “remember when” start to turn to quiet whispers. You are alone in your office or room. Begging on the inside that no one hears or sees you. Societal expectations fill your head you “should” be thrilled, so happy. And yet here you feeling something so far removed from that.
Eventually, you wind up in a place feeling alone. You did not expect to feel this way. Perhaps many of your mom girlfriends are super excited for their child and for themselves as they are ready to embrace some “more time for me!” You so badly want to join them. Telling them how you feel bursts their bubble. Instead, you keep it all inside. You start to wonder are you the only mom feeling this way.
The Truth Is It’s Completely Normal To Feel This Way
Lots of parents get surprised when this stage feels like grieving more than celebrating. The part that may be most difficult is that you never imagined it would look like this for you. You are beating yourself up over it. Always remember, you don’t know what you don’t know until it happens. Be gentle and sweet momma to yourself.
It’s true feeling completely different than how you expected as your student graduates can leave you feeling alone and perhaps struggling with quilt and fear. However, there are several things that can help feel the bond between you and your child will not completely change. When we do these 8 things it is entirely possible to stay connected and close.
KEEP READING FOR THE TOP 8 SKILLS TO MAKE CONNECTION HAPPEN TODAY
Not Learning How To Connect With Your Student Feels Like Being Layed Off From A Job
The biggest downside to not overcoming your problem is that your child will do perhaps what you have set out with them to do. Live their life. It will feel as if they are moving so far ahead, and you are stuck in a holding space. You look in the mirror and don’t recognize the parent you are being. You envisioned yourself walking side by side with your child. You showed up as a parent daily. Believe me, I get it if you shared everyday you were not on 100%, but you showed up. The parent life description is HARD! But it is also so incredibly rewarding! You envisioned the depth of your role changing but not becoming extinct.
At the very least you are showing up to events, participating in conversations all the while feeling completely disconnected from the experiences. It’s as if you are watching your life versus being in it. Living this way is unfulfilling and isolating. Remember mom, your role is changing, not ending.
Here’s the thing I want you to know, you have been here before. You picked out your child’s clothes and helped them dress. Yup, you got it. After a few years they started to do it themselves even if clothes totally didn’t match or were inside out. You took them out to practice driving. Yup, about 12-months later they took the wheel with pride, independence, and bravery. You’ve walked along in the past and you can again.
Learning And Practicing Ways To Connect Feels Like Winning The Jackpot
Although you currently struggle believing in the future connection in your parent/child relationship you have the potential to work through all these intense emotions and learn ways to keep the connecting alive and even grow! When we use these top 8 skills there is a possibility for increased closeness, sharing, and even feel included in your student’s’ life even while not residing together.
You can model healthy ways to connect. You HAVE been doing this since the day they were born. If you look inside yourself, celebrate the relationship you’ve helped build then you can hopefully feel some sense of feeling like the coins are ringing down the slot machine versus it being cricket silent.
8 SKILLS TO ACHIEVE ONGOING CONNECTEDNESS WITH YOUR STUDENT
Yes, it’s true you may be feeling insecure and hesitant. You want nothing more than a crystal ball to be handed you assuring all will be okay and more. Allow yourself to picture what that would look like. How do you want to be in this next chapter relationship with your student? When you see yourself how you are wanting to be notice how your feeling. Noticing a calmness hopefully? A glimpse of a smile perhaps? Breathing more easily?
The key to achieving the connection you long for is you have to show up in the relationship how you want to be experienced. You may be so focused how your son or daughter may be you are giving away the opportunity to focus in on how you want to be. This you can have a say in and be true to!
Check out these 8 skills to see learn how you can achieve ongoing connectedness with your student after they leave your nest:
Discuss expectations about communication
If you are dropping your child off at college one of the last things you want is your mind racing with questions such as “How was their first night’s sleep? “Did they get to class on time?” “Have they talked to any other student’s in the dorm?” You also don’t want to wait for a post or a pic to show up on their social media feed to get these answers.
Save yourself some anxiety and talk to your child about your and their expectations surrounding communication. Are you expecting to talk daily? A few times a daily? A long weekly phone session? Do they have the same expectations? Agreeing now may avoid disappointment and resentment later. Also offer these expectations don’t have to be in “permanent ink.” Commit to check-in with each other to see if they are working.
Whether your student reaches out to you or you to them, you want to set the stage for connection to best occur. If you’re in the middle of something when they reach out, simply share you need a moment (to turn off TV, get off phone, etc.) so you can and want to fully be present. I find people will wait. When your doing the reaching out do the same. Pause a moment to clear out your head. The power of letting others know they are important leads to a path where one feels open to share.
If there is one thing you take away from this post, I hope you choose this one. Validation is like a piece of gold for relationships. In the most basic terms, validating someone means you truly hear them. You do NOT have to agree. Let your student know that while you may or may not understand (you are not in their shoes) or agree with him or her you heard what was said. You recognize what he/she is saying, and you respect their opinion and feelings even if you disagree. When we negate or trivialize what the student says we dismiss them. We must let others own their feelings and ideas. Doing this opens the path for your student to want to keep calling. Practice saying, “I hear you sharing (paraphrase what they shared) and I imagine you may have felt (emotions). They will correct you if needed and accept it, so you stay connected. When a person feels validate you will see a shift in their body language or hear a change in their verbal exchange with you.
Ask your student want they are wanting from you.
When your student calls and perhaps shares a story/experience they may just need a safe space to vent. When we go full on parent mode (for some of us AKA making suggestions) they most likely will feel frustrated or unheard. Ask what they need. Set the stage for them to feel comfortable telling you. Providing them space to be their own person empowers them. They also can trust the process when they call. If they have a question and they want an answer immediately and you need time communicate that. For example, student calls wanting to travel to the next away game with a group of friends. You hear the excitement in their voice as well as the urgency for your approval. They knew they were calling but this is the first you’ve heard of this. Validate them. “I’m hearing your wanting to go to the away football game next week. I can also tell how excited you are and how important it is to have the answer. Dad and I want some more information (tell them exactly what you need…. cost, how getting there, etc.). What time tonight can you talk tonight to discuss this further in hopes to get you what you are wanting?
No judgement: the power of biting your tongue
As your student shares and if you get a pang of concern (or momma bear fear) try to hold your tongue and take a slow breath. You want them to keep sharing. Hold on and listen. I get it, easier said than done. Once they share all they want you to hear you can ask clarifying questions. Keeping an open mind means having a blank slate to hear them.
Be their cheerleader
You’re an expert at this. Remember when they took their first steps? You created space between you and them with open arms saying, “You got this, come on baby, one more step.” When they did it you celebrated them! And when they tried out for the school play hopeful but also hesitant. Words of believe and encouragement poured from you. You believed in them. You pulled out your momma bear bull hour in hopes they heard you. Keep doing it. They need you to always believe in them!
You have spent 18 years watching
In your heart you may feel like no on in this entire world gets your child like you do. But hear is the thing, as you are being that cheerleader hopefully, they have gotten to know themselves well too. We are still growing and learning ourselves. This may be a whole new life stage for you. Keep watching them. You can share your experiences of what you are seeing or hearing from them in a way that invites them to offer their take on themselves. For example, at the end of the semester you may hear fatigue in their tone as well as frustration perhaps. You may offer, “I know it’s the end of the semester and its sounding like your exhausted.” They may come back with, “Yes, I am and a bit stressed, but I know what I need to do its just getting through it. Exhale momma. You’ve done well!
Remind them that no matter what they can call you.
You may come up 586 things that may happen as they are away from the nest. Whether 1, 16, or none happen let them know they can call home day, night and every hour in between. Remember you’re already working on listening, biting your tongue, validating them. Invite them to call with the great news, the hard stuff and anything and everything between those bookends.
Your student walking away with their high school diploma does not have to mean you received your parenting diploma. High school doors closing is not parenting doors closing. In my office over the years I have sat with moms and dads as they work through their feelings and get in touch with defining how they see their parenting evolving. Learning your adult child can be fulfilling and powerful. As they grow, you are growing too.