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As graduation season nears and the sounds of “Pomp and Circumstance” fill high school football stadiums and auditoriums around the region, it’s time for the next step.

For many parents and students, it can be a trying time full of heartache and joy.

“It is definitely a critical transition from high school to the more independent way of learning,” said Dr. Allison Little, an adolescent psychologist in Dunmore and Clarks Summit. “I think to help with that transition, you have to help students develop non-cognitive factors that will prepare them for college.”

That means developing responsibility and self-discipline.

“When I work with kids this age, I make sure parents know that you have to work on the ‘whole’ student,” she said, “not just the psychological, academic or emotional factors.”

For those considering college, there is the debate about going away or staying close to home.

“I think it’s good to get advice from siblings or older friends to see what is right for them,” she said, “or even school counselors. Whether it’s the student who wants to stay close, or the parents who don’t want their child to go far away, it is best to get that advice to make a well-rounded decision.”

Some may opt for a tech school or certificate program. Little said that’s a conversation that should be had “along the way” and shouldn’t be discouraged.

“Not everyone is cut out for a four-year program,” she said.

But what if your child wants to skip college altogether and enter the workforce?

“That’s an important conversation to have, and you have to have it early,” she said. “It takes time to look at the different choices they have after high school so that it’s not a big shock when they say they don’t want to go to college.”

She said preparing for the future is a conversation — regardless of what the future may be — that has to be had “multiple times” throughout adolescence.

“But my advice for parents would be to be open to different opportunities and choices that their child may be thinking about,” Little said.

“One piece of advice: don’t shut anything down right away.

“You have to see what they have to say and see what their plan is, what their goals and aspirations are and understand why they want to make that decision,” she said.

“I think nowadays, kids hear stories of these very successful people, in the news, who didn’t go to college, and I think that is opening their eyes to a number of different opportunities and avenues they can take,” she said.

“Kids now realize that they can be successful and college may just not be right for them and that’s OK.”

Parents, too, may experience some angst when their last child leaves home.

The “empty nest syndrome” involves sadness, loneliness and perhaps grief. No more practices to take the kids to, no more athletic games or band concerts to attend.

Now is the time that empty-nesters can delve into the interests that were put on hold while raising the family.

“It’s normal to feel sad,” Little said. “What can help is for people to look for new opportunities in their personal and professional lives.”