I have spent more than a decade of my career working in higher education. I’ve helped students transition into college, giving them access to the tools and resources they need to be successful. I’ve spoken on the phone to parents who are concerned about their child’s journey and who are frustrated because they aren’t sure how to help.
I admit my children are only 3 and 6, so I can’t say my guidance comes from my own personal walk through this experience. But as a professional, I have been able to help countless students and their families have a positive transition into college—as well as into the real world.
Graduation season is an exciting time of the year. Students are graduating and preparing for their next steps in life. Parents are excited, proud but also concerned about what lies ahead. It’s a time filled with mixed emotions, and understandably so. Transition is never easy. You embrace the joy and excitement that comes with successfully completing one thing, only to be left with anxiety and doubt about what your new journey holds.
But I believe parents have the ability to give their graduates invaluable words of wisdom before they embark on their new journeys. No, they won’t follow every piece of advice you share. Actually, they will intentionally ignore most of it. That’s normal. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t listening. Pieces of what you say will stay with them, and that information will potentially help them make the right choices during those moments when they need it most.
Here are 5 things every parent must say to their graduate.
Ask for help often. It’s a sign of strength
When students venture off to begin a new journey, asking for help is difficult. As parents, we have to remind our children that asking for help is not a sign of weakness but rather a sign of strength. Tell your child that there are always resources available, so whether he or she needs academic support, support with a disability, mental health support or anything else, there is help available if they simply ask. So many students don’t get the help they need because they are too afraid to ask for it. Don’t let your kid fall into that trap.
Carefully choose who’s in your tribe
Forming authentic friendships is difficult for both youth and adults alike. Surround yourself with the wrong tribe and trouble is sure to follow. Have honest conversations with your kids about the mistakes you’ve made when choosing whom you allow into your circles. And give them tips on how to separate the phonies from the gems. If your graduate starts a new life adventure with the right people in her corner, she is sure to be okay.
Consider home your safe space
Graduates often think of graduation as an event that brings them that much closer to freedom. And although that is true, they need to know that the world can be brutal, but home will always be their safe space. Let your child know that no matter what happens—even if they mess up epically—home will always be a place that makes them feel safe. You may not always agree with the choices your kids make, but if they know you will continue to offer unconditional love and comfort in their most painful moments, it makes all the difference.
Don’t compare yourself to anyone
Oh how I hate the painful game of comparison. I wish I could tell you to tell your kids that this comparing game stops in adulthood, but we all know that it doesn’t. Yet, we still need to advise our kids to try their best to never compare their situation to someone else’s. I have seen college students flunk out because they believe all their friends are just chillin’ and having fun, and they want to do the same. But you know what? Those friends who are “always chillin’” end up with a 3.0, while my student is crushed because he’s on academic probation. The truth is, you never know what’s going on with someone, and appearances are deceiving. Tell your graduate to focus on who they are and what they are capable of.
Failure is a stepping-stone
Failure feels so crushing when you are young. And it’s especially crushing after an accomplishment like graduating from high school or college. But let your child know that failures are a part of life, and they often serve as stepping-stones to something pretty remarkable. If your children recognize that failure is designed to help them grow and achieve greatness, they will develop the resiliency required to get up, dust off and keep pushing forward.
BMWK family, what do you plan to tell your graduates as they embark on a new journey?