The leaving cert is a roller coaster ride for families. Brendan Mills whose daughter did the leaving cert this year and is our lead trainer on the Homeless Initiative Brief Encounters jotted down some of his thoughts on the experience.
If you have a child who has just completed the leaving cert then you are possibly aware of a knot in your stomach and a feeling of being more emotional than normal, possibly close to tears and a sense of holding it all together. This is despite the fact that the results are out and you know where you stand in relation to what is likely to happen next.
What we sometimes forget to notice is just how big a step this is for families it can bring up so much emotion for parents also as they consider children leaving home and that separation, as well as the transition to a new role as the child asserts their independence and starts to make decisions for themselves. So if this is your experience and it resonates with how you are feeling, well congratulations you are a normal functioning and healthy human being who has travelled a wonderful journey with your child and who is watching them emerge into the first phase of their more independent adult life.
The question therefore is not why am I feeling this way? But, rather how I am going to get through this phase in as healthy and positive way as possible and what strategies can I use to support myself, my family and my child.
Young people who have a supportive, nurturing, safe home environment will have that as a place to return to , particularly at times of stress or when they need comfort (a nights rest , the washing done , or food !!) The ability to talk about how they feel about the change and thinking about strategies for coping when they feel stressed or lonely will also help. Identifying what supports are available at work or on campus and discussing the fact that they may feel lonely, stressed or confused helps normalise and reassure a young person that this is an expected aspect of change .
Getting your child to this point is an achievement and it never happens without serious commitment and effort on your part. Give yourself the credit you deserve and recognise you are as important to your child now as at any time in their life. They will need you more than ever to be there for them through all of the ups and downs of life that they are about to experience. Keeping the lines of communication open and positive can be difficult at times and the ability to talk through differences and make up after arguments is important if you are to continue to strengthen the special relationship you have with your child. Watching your child mature into a happy and healthy adult is such a poignant and wonderful experience, however it also involves experiencing every other emotion and we need to be kind and compassionate to ourselves as we accompany them on their journey.