This weekend there will be many high school graduations and they will continue for the next few weeks. We tend to view high school graduations as a happy event. It signifies a big accomplishment for the teen because they completed high school and are ready for the next step in the lives as a young adult. However, while graduation can be a happy event there are aspects of it that can be confusing and sad.
As I stated for many high school graduation marks a big accomplishment for teenagers. They have finished their basic education and they are ready to move on to their life plans as a young adult. For many students this means going to a four year college and earning a Bachelors degree. In addition, many graduates will be celebrating scholarships they received and awards they received for their academic or other accomplishments in high school. They also have friends and family there to join them in celebrating their accomplishments. Of course this is a happy day and it deserves to be celebrated.
While this is the stereotype we think about regarding graduation, it’s not the reality for every student. Some students have worked very hard and maintained very good grades, but they did not get accepted into a college they can afford and they did not receive any awards or scholarships. Instead of going to a four year university, they will need to attend the local two year junior college and try to transfer into a four year university. Other students who have learning disabilities are just barely graduating and had to wait to the last minute to see if the past all of their classes. Some did not pass and they have to go to summer school so they may be allowed to participate in the ceremony but they are not finished yet. These students do not get to live the stereotype and often feel embarrassed and ashamed when they compare themselves to the other students in their graduating class.
I had also mentioned celebrating with family and friends. For some students this can be very difficult. If their parents had a hostile divorce, the divorce may be being dragged into the graduation. Instead of a celebration, the parents may be making the graduation a civil war. The graduate may be forced to take sides in regards to who they can invite to the ceremony. Do they invite mom’s side or dad’s side. This can change a happy event into a very stressful event the graduate does not want to be involved in. For some graduates a mother or father has passed away and graduation day is another reminder that this very special person is no longer physically present. Therefore, graduation may be a stressful or sad day.
Another aspect that is overlooked is graduation is an ending. It marks the end of a teenager’s high school experience. Many teens have been very involved with their school and have developed close relationships with teachers and school staff and they have developed very close friendships with their classmates. Graduation marks an end to their high school life. They need to say goodbye to these people and move on to a school they do not know and may not know anyone else who is attending their college. I remember one high school secretary’s comment when she looked at the senior class, “I have never seen so many kids look so happy and sad at the same time”.
In addition to saying goodbye to their high school family, graduates need to say goodbye to their families. If they are going away to school, they will no longer living with their parents or siblings. While they may complain about their families, they will miss them too. Mom and Dad will miss their graduated too. So while traditional we tend to only focus on the positive, which is not uncommon for our society, we also need to acknowledge that graduation marks an ending too. An ending to their high school family, friends they have created and to their high school activities along with a change in the graduates life. They no longer are a high school kid. They are a college student and a young adult and need to start their lives all over. This will have happy moments and sad one too. It’s important to acknowledge both.
While high school students will be starting their lives over, I have included a small segment of a speech by Martin Luther King, Jr. It empathizes that you need to define yourself, don’t let others try to decide who are going to be in life https://www.facebook.com/goalcast/videos/1294330473977473?s=1391497228&v=e&sfns=mo.
Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience treating children and adolescents. He has appeared on television and radio shows and is considered an expert in adolescent psychology. For more information regarding his work or private practice visit his website at http://www.RubinoCounseling.com, http://www.rcs-ca.com or his Facebook page http://www.Facebook.com/drrubino3.