My family has the distinction of celebrating two college graduates this year. I have become acutely aware of the emotional roller coaster that an impending graduation can cause these students. College graduation brings a mixture of excitement, dread, fear, over-optimism and equal pessimism. The truth is that your college graduate has been primarily a student their whole life. Now they are expected to put wings to their education and do something about it. That can be scary stuff! Here are some ways that you can be supportive and encouraging to them on their road to independence.
Depending on your child and their circumstances, a certain amount of anxiety about the future is a perfectly normal response to completing an education. There is actually a psychological term called post commencement stress disorder (PCSD). According to Psychology Today, common indicators of this disorder can be:
Feelings of helplessness or being out of control
Up until this point your student has had a pretty rigid schedule planned by others. They are now suddenly completely in control which ultimately makes them feel out of control because complete responsibility in life is a huge transition for them.
Feeling a lack of support
During the college years, there are teachers, faculty, deans, youth pastors, roommates and parents to form a support system. Now, every one of these relationships will be in transition, which can cause a lot of anxiety. For those students who have lived on campus, the additional anxiety of either finding a place of their own or moving back with parents is upon them. They are literally uprooting themselves from a supportive, safe environment—an environment where they have begun to spread their adult wings.
Feelings of failure
If they don’t land a job in their field immediately, students can often feel that all of their education has been in vain. For years, your student has been focused on a particular line of work, training and preparing for it. When a job in that field doesn’t immediately open for them, feelings of disappointment, discouragement and even depression can overwhelm them.
Strange sleep & eating patterns
Let’s face it. The sleeping and eating patterns of a college student are not “real life” habits! You can’t skip work because you pulled an all-nighter, and you certainly can’t survive the rest of your days on ramen noodles and pizza puffs! College disciplines can be very different from career disciplines and this can take a toll on the body as it struggles to adjust.
One of the greatest things you can do for your college graduate during this time of transition is to let them know that you are proud of them and that you are excited about their journey. Emphasizing the journey over the destination is very important because few graduates land “destination” employment after college. Here are a few biblical promises that you can share with your graduate to remind him or her of God's faithfulness in the process:
Above all, you can be supportive to your college graduate by being understanding and patient. The habits and confidence to walk out their new life will come in stages, not overnight. Be available to give godly counsel, but don’t push advice down their throat. God has prepared work for each of us before we were even born! Make it a matter of prayer that each of your children will experience the fulfillment that only comes from submitting to God’s will for our lives both professionally and in daily disciplines.