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For high school seniors, one of many graduations

"Graduation." It's a magic word this time of year, particularly for seniors and their parents. The magic comes from the expectation of proms, parties, celebrations, and caps and gowns. It's a time of "senior-itis," when students want to fall back on their achievements and privileges.

But graduation is also a time of mixed feelings, a time when students look back and say, "Is it over? Is this all there is?"

The shock may be even greater for parents. We remember not just the last four years of school, but the day we brought the baby home from the hospital, the horrible nights of colic, the birthdays, the scraped knees, the first date. Each set of experiences changed us, giving depth, happiness, sadness and sometimes renewed energy.

Rather than being a time of magic, high school graduation is really an artificial event. The graduations that really count _ those events that change us and provide new beginnings _ are the graduations of life. Some of these turning points are predictable _ getting married, getting a job, having children. Many are not.

What our children are about to begin learning is that we all have a series of graduations in our lives, a time of closing out the past and going on to new challenges. Graduations in life have little to do with school and everything to do with personal growth and learning.

What to do: For high school and especially for college graduation, give your child the gift of insight.

Think back over your own life and pinpoint your personal graduations _ times when dreams became failures or fears brought success. Find a way to capture these graduations of life, whether in writing, through illustrations, on a cassette tape, or in a "Graduations" scrapbook with photos, clippings and mementoes. You may even set up a new scrapbook or journal for your child to record the next series of events that will lead to the next graduation of life.

By sharing your personal history, your child can learn that hindsight gives us strength, that vision gives us direction and that living through gains and pains gives us the learning that prepares us to go forward.

Help your child understand that graduation is not just an end _ it's also a beginning, with new opportunities for success. The true yardstick is not an artificial graduation tied to a school calendar, but real-life turning points that push us in new directions.