For some reason when my kids were little, I used think that I only had them until they turned 18. Like my job would suddenly end. When they were babies and I imagined the end, I imagined them graduating from high school and then I was done parenting.

Boy was I wrong. When my two girls graduated high school, they no longer needed me to wash their clothes, fix them lunch, or drive them around. But they needed me.

They might not have needed me as a caretaker, chauffer, teacher, and coach. But they needed me as a supporter, encourager, and trusted friend. As my kids got older, I learned to be a different kind of parent in this season of their life.

Here’s what I learned that might help you if you have a graduating senior:

1. To listen, but not necessarily tell them what to do. This is a hard one. Sometimes the answer is so obvious. But what they really want is a sounding board as they figure things out for themselves. Sometimes the best thing is to ask questions that keep them talking and thinking.

2. To be encouraging. Leaving home and heading off to college is a fun, scary, exciting, insecure time. Branching out and trying new things feels risky. They will make mistakes. They will struggle. They need you to be their greatest cheerleader.

3. To be supportive. Now, they will make most of their own decisions. Sometimes they are not the decisions you would make. But remember, they learn from the good and bad of every decision they make. They need to know that you’re on their side. You’re FOR them.

4. To pray for them. This is the time in their life where they choose new friends, their jobs, their classes, their church, and where they will live. These are important decisions. Pray that God sends the right people into their lives. That He opens doors wide for them. And that He closes them tight when necessary.

Your role as a parent never ends–it only changes. And that’s not a bad thing.