Sunday, May 20, 2018

Graduating to the Future-Let's Help Them Learn to "Walk"

It's graduation season. The "walk" that began with a toddler's first steps all those years ago is about to become a full-on gallop into the future. I remember when I walked across my high school graduation stage. I had a mixture of relief, exuberance, and sheer fear! 

I remember when my daughters walked across that stage. I had a mixture of relief, exuberance, and sheer fear! I bet you can relate.

Graduation is more than a rite of passage. It is more than a celebration of accomplishments in the past. It is a gateway to what is ahead. Some graduating students are headed to the next level of higher education. Some are headed to the workforce. Some are headed to the armed forces. Some don't know where they are headed. All of them are looking into that scary thing called the "future." Will it be fun? Will it be hard? Will it hurt? Yes, yes, and yes.

As parents, grandparents, friends, and co-workers of these graduates, we have a responsibility. We are charged with helping them find their way, helping them define their goals and dreams, and with guiding them in the best ways of achieving those goals and dreams. How do we do that?

Here are three suggestions.

Listen to them. The graduate in your life is happy. Happy to be OUT OF SCHOOL. Happy to be FREE. (Yeah, I know. They'll get that reality check later.) Happy to be INDEPENDENT. (That one, too.) But, they are also scared. They are moving into new territory- whether that territory is middle school, high school, college or grad school. They have fears about what awaits them. When they talk to you about those fears, resist the urge to tell them "It will be okay," or  to say, "This is how I handled it,"  or worse, "This is how you should handle it." Sometimes, your graduate doesn't need to hear your advice or platitudes. Sometimes, they just need to talk. Let them. You might be surprised at what they work out on their own, just because you had the restraint to LISTEN and let them talk through things out loud.

Be available. When my daughters went off to college, I felt like a piece of my body had been torn off. I seriously felt physical pain. Can any of you relate? When I saw their cell numbers pop up on my phone, I felt instant healing. And, I don't care if I was talking to my boss, my mama, or my preacher, I instantly took their call. Sometimes they were calling with a problem they needed help with. Sometimes they were calling for money. Sometimes they were just calling to say "hey." Sometimes, I wonder if they were testing me just to see if I would answer. I always did. When your graduate is navigating new and scary territory they need a safe place they can go... and they need it when they need it, not when it's convenient for you. Be that safe place for them.

Be an encourager but not a fixer. It's hard for parents to let go. I get that. My daughters are in their 20's and I still want to rush in and fix everything for them. That's not doing them any favors. If you want your adult children to survive and thrive in this world, you need to let them handle some things on their own. And, you need to encourage them in their efforts to do that. How? By reinforcing their good ideas for solutions to problems, and by GENTLY guiding (not prodding or forcing) them away from questionable solutions/people/situations. A good way to do this is to ask them questions like: "What might happen if you did this?" and "What might happen if you don't do that?" Trust that you raised good kids. And, don't be afraid to let them fall. They will learn how to get up again and they will be stronger for it. Hug them when they are hurting. Let them cry. Then, tell them how proud you are of them, whether they succeed---or fail. Then, tell them again. And, again. And, again. 

These are just 3 of my suggestions for helping graduates move to the next stage of life. I bet you have some great advice, too! I'd love for you to post that advice here on the blog,  or on my Facebook Twitter pages. Hashtag it #graduationadvice2018 and let's see where it takes us and where it takes them! 


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