High school graduation

Content warning: this post might be triggering to people who struggle to remember that it’s sometimes ok to have boundaries or preferences that upset other people. Proceed with caution. 



My daughter graduates from high school in a month. She has Aspergers and had many challenges but managed to do well academically. However, she didn’t feel that the school dealt well with her. She is happy to close the door on that part of her life and wants to do it without ceremony. I get it. My husband and I would like to see her walk at graduation but are willing to accept her not attending the ceremony. However, she has said she will go if we ask her to. Should we ask or leave it alone?
realsocialskills said:
I think that the graduation ceremony probably has a very different symbolic meaning for you than it does for your daughter.
I think that, for you, it is probably like this:
  • As her parents, you are very proud of her accomplishment in doing well in high school in a difficult situation
  • You want to celebrate that
  • For you, seeing her walk at graduation is a profound symbol of what she has accomplished and how proud you are of her

I think for her, it is probably like this:

  • High school was a bad experience for her
  • Going to graduation feels like a celebration of the school and her relationship with the school
  • She doesn’t feel that the school treated her well, so she doesn’t want to celebrate with the school

If I’m reading the situation and the symbolic meanings it’s taking for all of you correctly, I don’t think that it is a good idea to ask your daughter to go to the ceremony for your sake. I don’t think that it’s good to push her into something that, for her, feels like celebrating people treating her badly.

But, deciding not to go to the graduation ceremony doesn’t mean that you can’t celebrate your daughter’s accomplishments. You can likely find a form of celebration that would suit all of you, for instance:

  • Having a graduation party for your daughter and her friends
  • Having a family dinner at a restaurant your daughter likes
  • Buying a symbolic present (eg: something related to your daughter’s interests, or something she will use in the next phase of her life)
  • Taking a trip together
  • Baking a cake
  • Writing a story or a poem
  • Or however else your family celebrates milestones

Does that seem like a possible solution? Do any of y’all have suggestions?

paradoxicalechoes said:

I have to disagree with this. I have an award ceremony coming up at my old school in a few weeks, I really don’t want to go for reasons which basically boil down to my time at the school being awful but my parents want me to go, it would make them feel happy and proud and they would be sad if I didn’t go.

The fact of the matter is I care about my parents, I want them to be happy and don’t wish for them to be sad. Now this doesn’t automatically mean I should go, it’s possible for my discomfort at the ceremony to outweigh the value I assign to them being happy about me going but the fact that they would be happy if I went can’t just be disregarded.

I would advise people in similar situations to evaluate how much they care about the happiness others will gain and the sadness they will avoid and weigh it against the unhappiness you will experience if you attend ceremony. If you think in this case your unhappiness outweighs how much you care about their unhappiness, don’t attend the ceremony, that is a perfectly good decision. If you think how much you care about the unhappiness they would experience outweighs the unhappiness you would experience by attending then attend the ceremony.

realsocialskills said:

I agree that it can be good to go to ceremonies you’d rather not go to for the sake of people you care about. I’ve certainly done that and I’m sure I will do so again in the future.

I don’t think that’s actually relevant to the question I answered though, because the question wasn’t “I’m being asked to go to this ceremony, should I?”, the question was “My daughter doesn’t want to go to graduation, should I ask her to anyway?”. I think in that case, it is probably better not to ask her to, and to find an alternative way of celebrating that everyone is ok with.

I think that, in this case, there’s no reason for *anyone* to have to be sad, and it should be possible to work out something that works for everyone. Not every situation is like that, but I think this one is.