It seems like just yesterday they were graduating kindergarten. Now your son or daughter is getting ready to graduate high school or college…and you couldn’t be more proud, excited, and maybe just a little bit sad that this chapter is coming to a close.
You’re not the only one feeling this way. (Chances are your son or daughter is too.) Here’s how you can prepare for the big day to help everyone celebrate this milestone to the fullest—and honor all that has happened to bring you here.
1. Embrace the emotions—all of them.
Ask any parent who’s had a child graduate. You can expect a roller coaster of emotions in the weeks before, the day of, and the weeks after. Accept them. Share them, as appropriate, with your child, your partner, and other parents experiencing the same thoughts and feelings. Your role as a parent is changing and it’s okay to feel a little sad or overwhelmed. Your child is probably feeling similarly, in saying goodbye to school friends and transitioning to the next phase. Tell your son or daughter what it was like when you graduated. This may encourage him or her to share their thoughts and feelings with you. Put graduation in perspective and remind yourself that your child is growing up and going on to accomplish big things in the real world. That’s something to celebrate.
2. Mark your calendar.
The last thing you want to do is double book something on graduation day, or schedule things too close to the big day. You want to be sure that you know exactly when and where you need to be. Mark the date and time clearly on the calendar, and include any other important dates leading up to the event. While high schools hold a single commencement, universities typically hold several—small commencement ceremonies by program or major and a large graduation ceremony for all—so make sure you get everything written down. This is a great time to make appointments for haircuts, manicures and pedicures, or any other personal grooming that you desire.
3. For graduation out of town, book a hotel and transportation.
If your student attends school away from home, you’ll want to make sure that you book your hotel, airfare, and rental car well in advance. Hotels are especially important as there are limited rooms near campus and lots of families who will be booking them. The university may have a graduation page on its website with recommendations for hotels. You can also check Airbnb, VRBO, and other rental sites. There are plenty of ways to save money when you travel.
4. Plan who is attending which graduation events.
There is likely a limit to how many guests may attend graduation. That may cause some family drama, especially if you’re dealing with divorce or extended families. Start with a conversation with the graduate-to-be. Discuss their wishes and your own. Know that you can’t please everyone. Make thoughtful decisions, and try to include everyone in some way or another. For example, arrange a watch party for the virtual event while parents attend in person. Then meet up afterward for a celebration. Do you have two students graduating at two different locations? See who can attend so each student has someone there.
Pro Tip: Sometimes schools will have extra tickets available after the initial ticket distribution. If you are looking to seat an additional family member, it’s definitely worth inquiring. Also, if you need special accommodations such as handicapped seating, inquire well in advance.
5. Choose a place for your celebration.
If you are going out, keep in mind that you’ll need to make reservations. Every restaurant within a short drive will likely be filled with families celebrating graduation after the ceremony. Discuss with your student where you may go to celebrate and when so that your son or daughter will also be able to connect with friends if desired. Or you can choose to have a graduation party at home, where you can invite friends and family to come and celebrate all together. Just be sure to make food/dessert arrangements and send out invitations in advance.
6. Set the stage with some great decor.
Celebrate the happy occasion with the neighborhood by posting a Happy Graduation Sign on your front lawn or front door. This helps create a festive mood leading up to the event and also is great for photos. Whether or not the graduation party is at home, add some festive touches like balloons, streamers, and banners. You can even create a photo collage of your child over the years to show how far he or she has come!
7. Choose a graduation gift.
You want something for your graduate to remember the occasion but it doesn’t have to be an expensive gift. Some families use graduation to pass along treasured heirlooms or create meaningful gifts like family trees or photo albums. High school graduates may get a college survival kit; similarly, you can make one for a college graduate moving away from home. Some other popular gifts include luggage (for future travel), savings bonds, laptops or smart devices, and jewelry. You also can find personalized gifts on Etsy and lists of suggested graduation gifts online.
8. Figure out the logistics.
This is one time you absolutely do not want to be late. Are you the one dropping off? Determine how long it will be to get to graduation. Leave plenty of time in the schedule to get to where you need to be. Account for traffic. Allow time for taking photos before you leave. Before you drop off, arrange with your student where you will meet up afterward amidst the post-graduation crowd. It’s going to be busy—and they are all going to be dressed alike!
9. Know what to bring—and not to bring.
Review the rules for graduation. You may not be able to bring food or drink, or even large purses. Is the ceremony outdoors? Bring sunscreen and a hat, or an umbrella and raincoat if necessary. Wear comfortable shoes; there will probably be a lot of walking. Don’t forget to pack that extra pack of tissues or a handkerchief to catch all of those tears of joy!
10. Enjoy the moment.
This is the day you’ve all been waiting for. Celebrate it with pride, and enjoy every moment—even the ones that may not be picture perfect. Your child has reached an incredible milestone and you were a large part in helping them take this step toward their future. Reminisce, but try and keep all of the baby photos and embarrassing stories packed away until you get home. Your child will appreciate it. Go ahead and make some memories that you’ll be able to cherish for years to come. Don’t forget to take pictures.
Happy graduation from all of us at California Casualty!
This article is furnished by California Casualty, providing auto and home insurance to educators, law enforcement officers, firefighters, and nurses. Get a quote at 1.866.704.8614 or www.calcas.com.