Editor’s note: This column is the second of a two-part series.
Parents often are surprised by the emotional roller coaster they experience during a teen’s senior year and the beginning years of postsecondary life. In “The Launching Years: Strategies for Parenting From Senior Year to College Life,” by Dr. Laura Kastner and Dr. Jennifer Wyatt, the authors provide some helpful tools and information to assess readiness and prepare.
Part two of the book’s “Ready for the Launch?” quiz is for parents to assess their readiness for launching. Consider to what degree you agree with these statements on a scale of 1 to 5, where 1=strongly agree; 2=agree; 3=uncertain; 4=disagree; 5=strongly disagree.
1. Despite my major commitment to parenting, I have other parts of my life I look forward to developing after my last child leaves home.
2. My marital status does not concern me at this point in my life.
3. If married, I’m satisfied with the quality of my marital relationship, or if I’m single, I’m satisfied with my current intimate relationship(s).
4. I know there will be plenty of pleasure in my role as a parent after my children leave home.
5. I feel capable of both supporting my adolescent’s independence and her/his needs for extra help during setbacks.
6. I have not expected that my adolescent’s graduation means stressful changes for me.
7. Facing the challenges of middle age does not overwhelm me.
8. My current employment status is satisfactory to me.
9. I am happy with the friends I have at this point in my life.
10. My emotional and physical health is currently satisfactory.
In reviewing responses, any 4s and 5s would be considered issues that can use attention over the next few years.
Every major life transition involves three parts: a loss, new confusion and uncertainty, and eventually, a sense of new beginning. If for many years, a parent’s major mindset has been on parenting, it will take time to refocus. Parents who feel unsettled by the launch may find it helpful to reflect on previous transitions or losses to figure out if the current situation is triggering past feelings. Talking these feelings through with a trusted support person may help.
Young people ages 18 to 25 within our culture are “emerging adults.” Jeffrey Arnett, a developmental psychologist, describes this time as one of trying on jobs, partners and personalities to make sure they get their lives just right for them. However, when this exploration involves risky behaviors, which can be more prevalent during this time than during the teen years, to optimally guide them, parents can provide a blend of support and challenge.
Parenting during this transition involves an inspired mixture of letting go within a context of staying connected. Being emotionally ready for this role shift is important. Accepting the loss of our old parent-child relationship, we form a new one, aiming for a close adult-adult relationship.