This is a piece I wrote years ago for a newspaper column.It seems to be a good time of year to rerun it. I hope it blesses you!
A word to parents of graduates…
Congratulations on achieving a milestone! Loving and involved parents are perhaps the best indicator of future success for students. Your encouragement and support from early-on in your child’s life sets the tone for a healthy self-image which lasts a lifetime. There is no substitute for unconditional love and acceptance, and the best news of all is that is the legacy you will set for your grandchildren. You can and do influence generations to come!
Allow your kids to dream big, and encourage them to live out their life mission. Remember, it’s their vision, not yours, that will propel them to achieve great things. You have been the “greenhouse” for their nurture and growth, now they can set out to accomplish what they have been equipped to do.
The values that you have inculcated in them will continue to become more prominent as they take on increasing responsibilities of jobs, families, and community involvement. What you have demonstrated in your day-to-day living will be much more significant than what you have taught them. Gradually, they are internalizing values that you have lived. What used to be external motivation is now becoming internal motivation that they have owned.
Your job is not finished by a long shot, because if your relationship with them has been set on solid ground, they will continue to seek your counsel, your support, and your companionship. Be prepared to enjoy this next exciting phase of life for both them and for you.
A word to graduates…
Congratulations on your achievement! Graduation is a milestone achieved through hard work and discipline. Indeed, learning hard work and discipline is the REASON you went to school. The information you learned is less important than the process that you learned. The discipline of delayed gratification, pushing through to the goal when you don’t FEEL like it, and the courage to come back from failure, are the most important tools that you can carry into the future.
I mentioned to your parents that they had a role in your self-image, and I trust that they imparted that to you well. You have the full responsibility of gaining your own self-esteem. I define self-esteem as the feeling you get when you have kept promises to yourself. If you can trust yourself by keeping those small promises that you made to yourself, you will have something that no one can take from you. From this comes confidence, willingness to take risks, and the knowledge that no one else will define who you are.
Finally, if you have not already done so, I hope that you have begun the process of determining your life mission statement. This is comprised of things you already have- namely, a recognition of your God-given talents and strengths; a set of life experiences (small now, but growing) which have helped to shape you; and your passion- what is the thing that you would do in this world even if you never got paid for doing it? Put those elements together, and you come up with the reason that you were put on planet earth. May you live out that mission for the benefit of yourself, and, more importantly, those around you.