ENCOURAGEMENT FOR PARENTS OF HIGH SCHOOL GRADS: 5 great, and somewhat unexpected things about parenting college kids.

My oldest just graduated from U of A and my 2nd oldest is in her 2nd year of college. I know everyone’s experience is different. And this group of seniors and parents have had a ton of added challenges, but I wanted to share some of my story and some encouragement to parents of kids entering a new season.

Psalm 127 says children are like arrows in the hand of a warrior. It kinda hit me like a ton of bricks when I realized arrows are meant to be aimed and released 😅😬

My oldest graduating from high school was harder for me than I thought. I played it pretty cool till we dropped him off in Arkansas, then on the way home my wife had to drive because I cried. Not just a little. I cried like 3 year old with a skinned knee. Then, for a good week or so, I’d cry on and off every time I had to do something without him that I’d normally done with him! 😅 Sad right?

Two years later my oldest daughter graduated. This should be easier because I knew what’s coming, right? Wrong. The knowing it was coming was like that horrible upward click-click-click-click at the beginning of a roller coaster you don’t really wanna be on. But nevertheless we moved her to Missouri. I cried again. 😆Then, when we took the leaf out of our dinner table because there was now just 4 of us, I cried again. 😆

But here’s the thing, while seeing them leave is really hard, I’m actually LOVING their college years!!! Here’s a few of the GREAT things about parenting college kids that I didn’t expect:

  1. Less tension. I wouldn’t have described my relationship with my HS age kids as tense, but I would say that after they graduated things were “less tense.” I think they’re more themselves after experiencing some independence. It’s not that they don’t care about what I think of them, it’s just they don’t care as much 😂. And that’s a good thing! They’re able to be more honest about where they are and what’s going on with them, I think partly because their mature enough to realize it.
  2. Better parenting. Parenting didn’t end like I feared it would. I had this crazy idea in my head that a HS diploma in their hand and a new address would muzzle me as a dad. I thought whatever I’d taught them or shared with them before graduation was IT. No more. That hasn’t been true. If anything I think I do that kinda stuff more. Seems like college kids are more open to hearing and learning, not just from parents, but definitely including parents. And that’s not a shot at HS students. Just a different season of life.
  3. More appreciation. Maybe it’s because we’re not with them everyday—I’m sure that’s part of it. But it just seems like they value us, our input, and our relationships more. They seem more appreciative and better able to express that appreciation. Wether we say it or not, we want that appreciation as parents. Their college years may seem like an unlikely time to get it, but it’s actually right on time.
  4. Learning from my kids is easier. For a couple decades now I’ve tried to approach life believing that you can learn from everyone, my own kids are no exception. They’ve always taught me things. But it seems like the lessons have been turned up since they’ve been college-age. Back when they were in HS, we were around mostly the same people. But now, they’re learning from different people and so I’m learning from them. My college kids have younger siblings, so I’ve called them asking for advice on how to deal with their little sisters multiple times. They care. They share wisdom-many times from Scripture.
  5. We have more in common. Not sure how to describe this one, but I just feel like we’re dealing with similar life struggles now. Recently I spent some time talking with my son and his roommates about God, The Bible, and life. I didn’t really feel like the guru I did when he had his middle school buddies over for Bible Study and 2K. It was more like a conversation and sharing of ideas. Same has happened with my oldest daughter at times. Idk, maybe it’s not that we have more in common, just that we’re more aware of what we have in common. Whatever it is, it’s great.

Parents of HS grads, I’d like to encourage you that there are GREAT days ahead. New seasons are hard, especially with our kids. But I’m loving these college years as a dad, and I think you will too.

I told my oldest daughter that moving from one season of life to another is like a lobster losing its shell. There’s vulnerability involved, but it’s necessary for growth. I think I’ve needed to hear that more than my kids.

I hope this has encouraged y’all. I love you and I’m praying for you.

Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! – Psalm 127:3-5

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