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Saying Goodbye to Your High School Graduate

The Focus is on Friends
The last dance, last pep rally, and last study hall ... Senior year in high school is a long series of farewells, most of them highly emotional. As unsettling as it may be to leave their 13-year careers as students, seniors' most wrenching good-byes are usually their good-byes to friends. If they're leaving home for college or the workplace, they know that they can always come home to reconnect with family. But those treasured friends who shared their lives and knew them best; they might never see them again. And although they swear to each other that they will stay in touch, the possibility that this is a final farewell is almost too much to bear.

Because of this unbearable notion of terminal separation, many seniors' last summer before leaving home is consumed by an urgent need to spend as much time as possible with their friends. It's a summer of endless parties and little time at home. A time for hanging out with and hanging onto their friends. Time spent in anxious recognition of what and whom they are leaving, while being totally unsure of what truly lies ahead.

Parents should not feel neglected, rejected or shunned by their seniors' spending so much of their free time with friends. Instead of making your kids feel guilty about not being with you or breaking curfews (strict curfews are difficult to maintain during the summer of good-byes), tell them that you know how tough it is to say goodbye to their friends. Invite their friends for dinner. Host a couple of parties for them and their friends. Share how you felt during this emotional summer, when you were in their shoes.

Arrange Time for Family Good-Byes
Even though their outward focus is on savoring every last moment with friends, your children know all too well that they are also leaving home and leaving you. The life that they have shared with you is changing forever. They may even provoke arguments with you, give you more attitude and lip in an unconscious attempt to make it easier to leave you. It's easier for seniors to say to one another, "My family's driving me crazy. I can't wait to leave." Than to tearfully admit, "I don't know how I'm going to leave them."

In the midst of your seniors' frenetic, friends-focused summer, make a strong effort to arrange times for them to say family good-byes. Your departing children need their one-on-one farewells with you, their siblings and other close family members. Don't expect them to acknowledge that they need these intimate moments. They're too busy avoiding and denying fear and heartache. So help them out -- drop them off at their grandmother's and pick them up in a couple of hours, give them some money and ask them to take their younger sibling out for ice cream. When you arrange for them to spend time alone with these loved family members, you give them a chance to say their right and proper good-byes.

In this summer of the long goodbye, this last summer of their childhood, your children need your help to let go...and to hang on.

Read Carleton Kendrick's bio.

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