Normal Teen Behavior Just Before High School Graduation

The weeks and months before graduation mark a time of change in your relationship with your child. Your relationship shifts from one of authority to one of mentoring as your child prepares for adulthood. Open communication and understanding can pave the way for a smoother transition, but neither one of you is perfect. You might have moments of frustration or confusion as you ease your child out of the nest.


Many teens become careless about school work during the last few weeks (or even months) leading up to graduation. The term "senioritis" was coined to describe this phenomenon. Kids mistakenly believe that once they've received their college acceptance letter, grades don't matter. You might remember feeling the same way as a senior. Acknowledge your child's readiness to be done, but encourage her to hang in there. Colleges look at final transcripts when awarding scholarships and a dent in her GPA could have negative consequences.

Testing Limits

Most teens feel a mixture of anxiety and excitement over graduation and their plans as young adults. How teens respond to these feelings varies, but your teen might be moody, tearful or even belligerent. Feeling themselves to be adults, teens might refuse to do homework, help around the house or comply with curfews. At the same time, you might be having feelings of confusion and ambivalence yourself. Feelings of excitement over your child's future might be mixed with moments of sadness, fear or regret. A common parental response is to tighten the reins and grasp at control. This is rarely effective and pushes teens to rebellion. Instead, allow for more independence. "Privileges, freedom, and independence are earned," said Fran Walfish, a California child, adolescent and family psychotherapist and author of "The Self-Aware Parent." "If your teenager has demonstrated responsible, hardworking and reliable behavior, he or she has earned your trust for more independence." 3

Risk Taking

The weeks leading up to graduation are often filled with graduation parties, which might mean underage drinking. When teens drink, they're more likely to engage in other high-risk behavior, according to Dr. Seddon R. Savage, director of the Dartmouth Center on Addiction Recovery and Education. When kids drink, they usually don't stop at one glass. Once inebriated, they're more likely to be involved in a car accident or engage in casual sex. Talk with your teenager about your concerns and offer some strategies for avoiding alcohol during graduation parties.

Social Connections

Most teens are social creatures. Your child might spend more time with friends than he does at home. "Teenagers, like all kids, want to fit in, belong to a social group, and be like their friends," Walfish said. "It is the unusual adolescent who is strong enough to stand apart." Your teen might want to stay out all night or might ask you for money to participate in activities with peers. Be empathetic to your child's social needs, advised Walfish, but trust your intuition. Set limits based on your own comfort level.