Easing Post-High School Graduation Stress


High School graduation is an exciting time, but also can often bring about feelings of stress and anxiety for both teens and parents. 

Graduation is a huge milestone and cause for celebration. It brings many life changes, new independence, and higher stakes for young adults. This can be stressful and anxiety-inducing for both graduates and their parents, but with the right approach, it can be a positive and fulfilling experience.

Why Your High School Graduate is Feeling Stressed

The period following high school graduation can be overwhelming for many young adults. Here are a few reasons why your high school graduate might be feeling stressed out: 

Uncertainty about the future: The transition from high school to college, entering the workforce, or taking a gap year can bring on a lot of uncertainty. Your graduate will face a lot of pressure to make important decisions about their education, career, or life path. This can cause a lot of anxiety and stress.

Leaving familiar surroundings: After high school graduation, your teen will be leaving behind their familiar environment, including friends, teachers, and the routine of daily life. This significant change can be emotionally challenging, triggering feelings of sadness and nostalgia.

Academic pressure: If your teen is moving on to college, they may feel an increased pressure to perform well academically and feel that stress before they even enter college.The stakes can feel higher in college. For example, they may fear facing more challenging courses, or worry about losing a scholarship, or being able to enter a competitive program. 

Social pressure: Graduates face a lot of social pressure with their post-graduation plans. They may feel pressure from peers, parents, and their school community to choose a certain path after graduation, whether that’s college, staying home to support family, or entering the work force. 

Signs of High School Graduation Depression or Anxiety

It’s normal for high school graduates to experience stress. However, as a parent, you should look out for signs of depression or anxiety that is affect your teen’s health and day-to-day life.

Withdrawal and social isolation: Watch for signs your high school graduate is withdrawing from social activities, isolating themselves, or avoiding friends and family.

Changes in appetite or sleep patterns: Significant changes in eating or sleeping habits, such as increased or decreased appetite, insomnia, or oversleeping, can be indicators of emotional distress.

Mood swings and irritability: Graduation stress can manifest as frequent mood swings, increased irritability, or heightened emotional reactions to seemingly minor events.

Drinking or drug use: Watch for signs your young adult is drinking excessively or using other drugs to help them sleep or to help them feel better. 

Tips for Managing Post-Graduation Stress

Help your high school graduate navigate the post-graduation period with these tips:

Encourage open communication: Create a supportive environment where your graduate feels comfortable discussing their fears, concerns, and aspirations.

Foster a sense of control: Empower your graduate by involving them in decision-making processes regarding their future. Researching and exploring various options together can provide a sense of control and ownership over their choices.

Emphasize self-care: Encourage your graduate to prioritize self-care activities such as regular exercise, maintaining a healthy diet, getting enough sleep, and engaging in hobbies they enjoy. These practices can help reduce stress levels and promote overall well-being.

Provide information and resources: Support your graduate by providing access to resources that can assist in their decision-making process, such as career counseling services, college guidance, or information about gap year programs.

Tips for Easing Parents’ Graduation Stress and Anxiety

As a parent, it’s natural to experience your own anxiety during this transitional period. Here are some tips to ease your graduation anxiety:

Foster trust and independence: Recognize that your child is growing up and needs to navigate their own path. Trust their ability to make decisions and handle challenges while providing a supportive role in their journey. Allow them the space to explore their interests, make mistakes, and learn from them. This trust will alleviate some of your anxiety and allow your graduate to develop their independence and resilience.

Seek support from other parents: Connect with other parents who are going through the same experience. Share your concerns, experiences, and strategies for coping with graduation anxiety. Having a support system can provide a sense of reassurance and perspective.

Educate yourself: Take the time to educate yourself about the options and opportunities available to your graduate. Attend college fairs, informational sessions, or workshops that provide insights into the different paths your child can take. By and large, the more informed you are, the better equipped you will be to support your graduate.

Practice self-care: Remember that your well-being is important too. Take care of yourself physically, emotionally, and mentally. Engage in activities that bring you joy and help reduce stress. By prioritizing your own self-care, you will be better able to support your graduate during this transitional period.

Manage your expectations: Recognize that everyone’s journey after high school graduation is unique. Avoid comparing your child’s progress to others and understand that success takes various forms. Focus on their individual growth, strengths, and passions rather than predefined societal expectations.

Contact Pediatrics West

If your child is experiencing depression or anxiety after graduation, reach out to your provider at Pediatrics West for help by calling (720) 284-3700. Also, you can request an appointment with one of the mental health therapists with Jefferson Center for Mental Health who works on site at Pediatrics West.

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