Graduating to life’s next level includes important lessons
A new crop of young adults are or will graduate from high school this month. And ready or not, they’ll be thrust into a new chapter that could aptly be titled: Starting life as an adult.
Graduation is an important milestone. And though the significance of completing high school is not as symbolic as it once was since making your way in the world armed only with a high school leaving certificate is very difficult, if not impossible, it’s still seen as the transition from childhood to adulthood. The passing of the baton. Of letting these young adults make their own decisions.
And, hopefully, learning to live with the consequences. Much has been said of this generation. The so-called “entitled” kids raised by a platoon of helicopter parents who have led their children to believe they are special. That they can do anything. That the sky’s the limit and the rules only apply to their children when convenient. And when they’re not, watch out for mom and dad who will swoop in at a moment’s notice and take anyone to task for daring to paint their child with the broad brush stroke of reality and with consequences.
The problem with this style of parenting is that the rest of the world doesn’t see your darling as darling at all. They see an ill-mannered, demanding, entitled young person who’s been taught to think only of himself or herself. Who expects to be handed everything.
And who has no coping skills when the inevitable bumps in the road come along.
And that’s sad because it means these kids are thrust into a world without the tools needed to succeed.
As a parent I believe that my job is to also be a teacher and to prepare my kids for the next stage in life, no matter what stage they are in.
When my children were babies I needed to prepare them for the toddler stage that included learning to walk, talk and feed themselves.
Before sending them to elementary school, I needed to teach them to share, to wait their turn, to respect their teachers and adults, to not interrupt, and so on.
In the same vein, those getting ready to leave high school will hopefully have learned that the best tools to have in their adult tool boxes will be the ability to work hard even when something is difficult, to communicate effectively, to speak up when something is wrong but to not feel victimized when receiving a bad grade when they didn’t do the work, or lost a job when they repeatedly called in sick, showed up late, or didn’t perform well.
They should absolutely know that life is not always fair. That everyone won’t always win, and that the harder working, better qualified and more organized person will usually triumph.
A well prepared graduate should understand the basics of finance and know how to live by a rudimentary budget. Teens who have part time jobs, who pay their own cellular phone bills and buy their own clothes, will understand those concepts. Many though, who may work but are allowed to spend their money having fun while mom and dad finance their “real life,” will be clueless.
And even more, surprisingly, don’t have jobs at all. They’re allowed to live lives of staying up late, sleeping in, “hanging out,” and endless rounds of computer-TV-social-media surfing.
What stage of life is that preparing them for, I wonder?
When it comes to finance, we need to arm our grads with the understanding that shopping and consumption are not the paths to happiness, but rather to a life of debt and stress.
A well prepared young adult should also know how to cook a basic meal or two, and how to do laundry. If they own a car, or have access to the family car, they should know how to check the tire pressure and what the proper tire pressure is.
They should be able to check the car’s oil level and its windshield washer fluid level (that one’s pretty important once the snow and slush start to fly.) They should know the cost of gas, and certainly be replacing it if they use the family car.
In short, a well prepared grad should understand the basic cost of living and how much it costs for them to exist in the world so they are armed and ready to exist independently one day.
Too many graduating teens who quickly become adults, don’t have the first clue.
Sadly, too many become young 20-somethings, who turn into not-as-young 25and-up-somethings who spend their days playing video games in mom and dad’s basement, working part-time jobs at fast food chains and counting on mom to cook and clean for them.
Our job as parents is to prepare our kids for the next phase in life. To not do that is to fail our kids and to send them out into a world that won’t love or protect them like we do. It’s to send them out ill equipped and without the tools they’ll absolutely need to succeed.
So before buying that graduation card, make sure your grad has learned all the lessons they’ll need in order to graduate to the next level in life. It’s the best gift you can give them.