During the next two weeks thousands of seniors will be graduating from high school. Some have been planning their next steps for some time, some for only a couple of months and some not at all. The fact that this stage in their life is ending can cause sadness, nostalgia and even fear – especially for those who are not immediately moving on. It can feel like a void has developed in their lives.
As a culture we have come to expect that college or training after high school is essential – and it is – if the student is ready but that’s a big IF. It takes emotional readiness to move on and if pushed too quickly the student can fail or drop out because they were not mature enough to handle it. That image of failure can last a life time in their memory. Typically, students who have a pattern of seeking immediate gratification need longer to grow up. Just as young children learn to walk at different times – some at 10, 12 or 14 months and it’s okay at the same time we realize that we can’t simply hold them on our hips throughout life but must allow them to fall, pick themselves up and to persistently keep trying to achieve success. Well, the same goes for maturity. It doesn’t just happen but can be helped along the way by the attitude of a parent or loved one.
As parents or family members we don’t want to see them flounder and want to ‘fix it’ for them. We naturally want to take away their angst about the tomorrows in their lives. This is when it takes all of our courage not to rush in and attempt to ‘make it all better’ as we did when they were young. Life is not about constantly fixing things for our children but encouraging them to face reality and in this case that reality may be that they need a little longer to grow up. It is about loving them enough to take the time to talk with them until they get it. Don’t expect the first, second or even tenth times to be enough. Remember they are a bit immature and with immaturity comes lack of focus.
If they haven’t been planners in the past and were more into immediate gratification the only way for them to understand the critical need to develop and work a plan in their life now is to let them experience what it feels like not to have one. This is where tough love comes in. We must allow them to face the reality of not getting something they think they want especially if we know they are not mature enough to handle it. Moving on after high school takes physical, mental and emotional maturity which develops over time not over night.Those things are not something that can be bought, given or sold. It must come from the depths of the student who is so disappointed, maybe even a bit angry enough to do something about it. In goal setting it is said that we must become sick and tired and reach our depth of dissatisfaction before we decide to make a change happen in our lives.
Growing older is not an option but growing up and maturing is – it takes conscious effort to learn to delay gratification. Developing maturity usually starts by working at things that we don’t love or even like. But as we have to work at them we become more determined to change our path and develop short and long term plans to change our circumstance. Becoming a productive, responsible person is not simply about getting what we want it is about working through the things we don’t want or like to achieve our goals. That takes maturity and it only starts when we experience what we don’t want and force ourselves to face it head on. Jobs that simply sound like fun are therefore not the answer unless you want to see them permanently searching for the fun in life rather than the productive element of achievement that will cause them to feel more self confident and become happier people ultimately. Looking for a job because it just sounds like fun simply delays the process of maturing – sometimes permanently.
Watching a graduating senior flounder a bit can be the hardest thing we do but if we love them enough to stand firm and expect them to get a full time job in the meantime it can make all the difference in their lives. As a responsible, loving parent it is our job to get our kids to face the reality of their own situations not with excuses but with the truth. If not us – who, if not now – when? We all pay the piper in life it’s a matter of when and how. When these students don’t have their immediate gratification realized they can choose to make the best of the situation by becoming productive in what ever job they are doing, that’s step one in becoming a successful, independent and happy human being. Life we know is a great balancing act. It takes concentration, determination and work. No one can do it for us. We each have our own unique lessons to learn.
Have a great few days!