Graduation day: I’m not feeling the warm fuzzy feelings for you.
Everybody else’s kids are heading off to college and I feel like a terrible parent!
High school Graduation pictures are all over social media. I can’t help but stop to gaze at the smiles. It’s an exciting life event to watch unfold. The stunning photos of young adults make us all reminisce over how quickly our kids go from graduating kindergarten to graduating high school.
Does it bring tears to your eyes? It does mine. I even ask myself, “Where has the time gone?” And, “how can I be old enough to have a high school graduate?”
Graduation day is a day many parents have dreaded or looked forward to and possibly a little of both of those emotions at the same time. It seems as though all of the hard work and endless hours we put into parenting our child, is defined by this moment. All of the selfless things we’ve done for our family can be quickly forgotten on this day when the BIG questions are asked.
“Where is your daughter going to attend college in the Fall? “
“So, what’s next for your son?”
“What is your son’s career choice?”
Our friends mean well, but it feels like a stick just stabbed through my heart. It feels like I have to explain why my child isn’t in college but actually I don’t have a good answer.
At that joyful event, we can either feel extremely proud or little sick to our stomach. While some parents are beaming with pride as they sit in the auditorium full of row after row of identical caps and gowns worn by apprehensive young adults, others just want to hide. The parents feel like they’ve utterly failed. Disappointment sometimes comes from unmet expectation that we’ve placed on our children or on ourselves.
Not every child knows what their next step is and it isn’t your fault.
Don’t feel as though you are defined by the choices your children make. As a parent, you will continue to grow, even as your children are adults living their own lives.
Out of my five children, three of them are adults in their twenties. I continue to grow and learn about myself as I parent my adult children. Because parenting adults is a different ball game, I want to share a few things I’ve learned.
If you feel disappointed that your child isn’t heading off to college with the rest of the graduating class, this is not the time to tell them. They probably already know. The honest truth is that you aren’t alone and neither is your child. If your child didn’t work hard enough to get into a University, don’t throw that in their face.
Speak life into their potential. Persistently share with your child about the gifts and talents you see in them. If you stay positive and aim to be a good listener then your child will want to bounce ideas off of you. Wouldn’t you rather that they talk to you as opposed to someone else?
When you speak life into your child, it’s as if you are giving them the nourishment that they need to grow into the fullness of who they were created to be.
By listening to the way my husband lifts up our children and calls out their strengths, I learned that his kind hearted approach works. He is a stepdad to our first three children, yet he has done an amazing job of keeping most negative thoughts to himself. Instead, he focuses on what their potential is.
This reminds me of when Jesus called Matthew, a mean and terrible tax collector to follow Him. He saw his potential, not his current situation and spoke life into it.
Encourage them unconditionally, while showing respect and love. Instead of condemning your young adult child for not having a plan, encourage them by gently telling them that you believe in them. Too much pressure can make them run from you. Be real about what you speak into them. Don’t make up things simply because you want them to fit in a box nicely. While I saw the gifting of my children at a young age, they still surprised me with what I didn’t see. They knew what was inside of them and in time they shared with me what their dreams and goals were.
When my oldest daughter was a teenager she told me that she wanted to be a model. She is beautiful. She has dark eyes and dark hair with perfect features.
There was a problem that I saw though and I quickly spoke it out loud, big mistake.
I told her that I didn’t think she could be a model because she isn’t tall enough. After high school she moved to another state and she followed her dream and she did some modeling. I was really proud of her.
She reminded me of the time I spoke negativity into her life and I felt horrible. She didn’t model for very long but I think she really needed to prove me wrong and I’m so glad she did.
It’s ok for a parent to be wrong and it’s ok to apologize for our words. Even though it hurt her that I was being a dream crusher, she didn’t hold it against me.
Teach them how to deal with disappointment. If we’ve been honest with our children, we’ve already let them know that life stinks sometimes. We don’t always get what we want and that’s not the end of the world. Our kids are being attacked by a culture that is opposite of what we are trying to teach. They are often confused and frustrated even when from our view point it looks like defiance. Teach your kids to not give up by being a parent who doesn’t give up. They have watched you live life and maybe you have made a few of your own mistakes. Just start over and let them start over as well.
Give them freedom to fail and encourage them to start over again. They will do far more if they are free to fail then if they live in fear. Fear makes us hold back the very best part of ourselves. God created us with so much good stuff inside that when it’s not released, we can feel useless.
I’m about to make a dream board with my two youngest children, who are ten and thirteen. I decided that we need to have a way to express what they feel like God has placed inside of them. I want to invest wisely with the years I have left with them to help them cultivate their dreams. This idea is not original to me, I’ve heard of many people creating a dream board. I just haven’t heard of kids doing them. What if someone had dug this kind of treasure out of you at a young age?
I’m going to ask them these questions:
What do you love to do?
What are your natural gifts?
Describe what kind of a person you are.
List 5 qualities that you want to be.
List 5 things you want to do?
List 3 places you want to visit?
After my kids and I talk through this list of questions, I believe they will have an idea of what their dreams are. I won’t crush a single one of them! I will then print out some photos or let them draw their ideas on paper or poster board. I will choose a scripture that they can hold onto and encourage them to search for a scripture that has meaning to them. One that I might choose is:
Isaiah 41:13 For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear: I will help you.
Our world is loud. It’s going to be during the time you choose to be quiet before the Lord that He will bring out the Dreams you once had. God is good at reminding us that He gave us creativity and that He will provide an outlet for it. Spend time with Him and listen to what He says about your family.
My goal with this project is for my kids to have a visual that shows them who God has created them to be and who they are at the core. When they get discouraged we can point them to the dream board. They will be reminded of who they are at the core.
In Paul David Tripp’s book, Instruments in The Redeemer’s Hands, he shares: “If you want to be part of what God is doing in the lives of others, you need to understand how God designed human beings to function. Why do people do the things they do?”
Throughout our marriage Brian has often asked me why the kids do the things they do. Even though God has given me a gift of discernment and compassion, I don’t always have the answer to why they do certain things, until I pray to understand their heart.
Paul David Tripp continues by saying, “You cannot understand the human being without understanding the heart. The bible uses ‘heart’ to describe the inner person. The heart is the ‘real’ you. It is the essential core of who you are.”
It‘s essential for parents to work through our disappointment so that we can continue to capture the hearts of our children. As they grow to understand who they are, the more they can discover how great God is.
They will know that they were created for a purpose and a destiny.
They will see that God has placed an unconditional love in your heart for them.
They will know how to deal with disappointment as they watch you deal with your own.
The dreams you once had for your child have not been forgotten by God. The natural gifting that you observed, He put that there. Their story isn’t over yet, in fact their story is just getting started. Rest your weary thoughts and let God do a beautiful thing in your family. Pray for them and speak their destiny back to the God who created them.
As you spend time with the Lord, you may even remember dreams you once had for your own life. Follow them. Run after them. Don’t quit.
Your words are more powerful than you realize and your actions speak loudly. We all need a friend who nudges us to finish something we started, a friend who doesn’t want your dream to die. Be that friend! (Or that Parent)