Best Advice for the Parents of the Graduate

One of the stickiest dilemmas facing parents of newly graduated or ready to graduate offspring is miscommunication. Many young adults just won’t come forward and ask their parents questions regarding life after high school and college. A common reason for this failure to communicate seems to be that new graduates just don’t feel they’re able to share.

Remember, communication with your child does not begin sometime after high school or after the Playstation III is turned off for the night. To make any of your advice stick in their minds you need to have already laid down a foundation of communication long before your son or daughter graduates. That said, for the parent-child relationship that’s already rocky at best, there are still ways to reopen communication at this turning point in your child’s life.

First, offer aid if needed, but don’t impose misguided advice. Sniping young adults may seem to be biting the hand that feeds them but they are just apprehensive of what’s to come after graduation, and others may not be worried at all. Everyone has their own experiences in life and their own way of viewing the world. Its important that a parent does not assume they know exactly what’s going through their child’s mind. Assumptions can lead to frustration and a reluctance to communicate further on the child’s part.

However, a parent can and should offer to share his/her own experiences, and listen to any fears their child may have when moving forward post-graduation. Depression isn’t jet lag, sometimes it won’t go away so easily. If a young adult is acting depressed or noticeably reluctant to proceed with entering a field of work directly following graduation, one of the best approaches a parent can take is to find the time to sit down and talk openly with them.

A well-meaning parent should never give their child the old non-committal, “Well, I think you’ll do fine,” when they were actually voicing repeated doubts about the future, because this type of answer rarely suffices as reassurance to any rational being. The best bet for the parent with a moderately depressed or anxious child on their hands is not ‘dealing’ with them, but actually attempting to understand them. A parent should allow the child to convey why they feel so reluctant to move forward and give honest feedback, not ultimatums or one line conversations.

All that said, some young adults who are undergoing post-graduation blues may need a little space or a bit of a push. Or – in some cases – both space and a push. Some graduates know exactly what they’re going to do and for the most part how they’re going to do it. For the graduate that’s already got a clear handle on their lives, its best for the parent to take a back seat for the time being.

But – and this is where creating the foundation comes in – sometimes the parent has to listen and put their ear to the railroad track before they can hear the train coming. Having an overbearing parent hovering over the career search can be just as vexing to a new graduate as the parent providing too little help. Watch, listen and learn is a good motto for parents with young adults who have newly graduated.