Being a parent at any stage in life is not easy – especially when you’re parenting children who are on the cusp of adulthood.

It’s that ambiguous, awkward, and terrifying place where you’re not quite an adult, yet no longer a child. The time when life is both full of wonder and endless possibilities, and full of heartbreaking emotional truths.

I think back to that time – way back – when I had my whole life ahead of me. I couldn’t wait to be out on my own, making my own decisions and conquering the world. I thought I had it all figured out at age 20. How wrong I was. 

Yes, I had my independence, but not nearly enough life experience to keep me from falling down more times than I really want to admit. I wish I knew what I know now – I could have had fewer bruises and scrapes to deal with.

It has taken me 40-some years, countless mistakes, and a whole lot of Band-Aids to figure out that most of life’s lessons are simply common sense. But when you’re a young 20-year-old girl looking at the big, wide, terrifying, and exciting world in front of you, common sense sometimes goes right out the window.

What I want for my daughter and son to know as they navigate their early adult life, is that life can be full of beautiful experiences. Life itself is neither positive or negative; it is what each of them will put into it and how they respond to situations that will make their lives seem good or bad. 

My children need to learn that two people can be put through the same situation, yet each will respond in dramatically different ways. They need to realize they have the final choice in how they respond or react to what life throws at them. When they stumble (and they will), I want them to know it’s okay to pick themselves up, dust themselves off,  and continue on their journey.

I want them to always remember these 20 bits of wisdom – and to call home every once in a while:

1 | Life is not fair.

Life is life. Even when you do everything right, sometimes things will not work out the way you planned. Someone else might get that promotion or opportunity you should have gotten. Some people are born into this world with everything at their disposal and some are born into unfortunate situations. It may not seem fair, but life rarely is. You don’t have the power to control everything that happens to you, but you have the power to control how you react to the unfairness in life.

2 | If you want to be an adult, then act like an adult and tackle adult responsibilities.  

Adulthood has many freedoms, but with each freedom there is an equal responsibility to go along with it. In adulthood, you will have to do things you don’t want to and deal with things you don’t want to deal with. Learn to accept this and you will always have clean laundry and money to pay your bills.

3 | Growth doesn’t stop when you become an adult.

Being an adult and reaching your full potential means constantly learning and growing. Embrace learning something new every day, challenge yourself to go beyond what you think is possible and be willing to adopt new life philosophies. Twenty years from now, you will want to have grown rich with life experiences and wisdom.

4 | If you make a mess, learn to clean it up.

I’m not talking about household chores (but yes, you should clean up your messes and make your bed). I’m talking more about taking responsibility for your mistakes. We all make mistakes, but taking personal responsibility for them and making amends is what allow us to mature.

5 | Opportunities don’t fall in your lap, but they are always placed within your reach.

It’s up to you to take action and reach out to grab on to every opportunity.

6 | There is a difference between “can’t” and “won’t.”

Can you or won’t you? Won’t means you are choosing not to do something you can or will be able to learn eventually. Ask yourself – and be honest – is it something you simply don’t want to do, or is it something you truly do not have the skills to accomplish? Change the “won’t” to “will” and you’ll see that you actually can.

7 | Successful people will do things that unsuccessful people will not.

If you’re not willing to do the work or do what is necessary to be successful, then you never will be. If something is truly worth having (that degree, a new business, a healthier body, etc.) and you want it bad enough, no excuse or road block will keep you from reaching your goal.

8 | Allow yourself to have experiences. Try everything and don’t be afraid to fail.

If you’ve never tried something, how do you know you don’t like it? Some of life’s greatest moments will happen when you say “yes.” Fear of failure will keep you from acting on opportunities that could lead to success. Even if you fail, you will learn valuable life lessons that will give you the experience to succeed at something else.

9 | What you focus on, you will attract. 

You have the power to attract what you want. If you want a positive life, focus on everything that is positive.

10 | Be that someone. 

Don’t wait around for someone else to do something, take action and be that someone.

11 | Do something kind every day.

When you are kind to others, kindness is returned to your life.

12 | Be grateful. 

There is always something to be grateful for. The more grateful you are about what you have, the less you will need to actually be happy.

13 | Everyone has a bad moment or day, never let any situation define your outlook on life. 

Remember everyone has good moments too.

14 | It’s okay to cry. 

Even the strongest people will reach their breaking point and need to let it all out. Allow yourself to experience this moment and know that it is okay to cry and to feel pain. When the moment passes, remind yourself that with any storm, there is always an end and the skies will turn sunny again.

15 | Never be ashamed of your past or a mistake you’ve made.

You can’t change the past, but you must learn from it. Don’t let shame rule your life, nearly everyone has done something they wish they could change.

16 | Learn to forgive yourself and others.

We all make mistakes and no one is perfect. Forgiving is not forgetting. Forgiving gives you the freedom to let go of negative feelings so that you can move forward with a healthy mind.

17 | Take care of yourself.

You are only given one body, take care of it. Wear sunscreen, eat healthy, exercise, get regular check-ups, allow yourself a down day, meditate. When you are middle-aged or beyond, you will be thankful.

18 | Be passionate about something.

Have a hobby; embrace life. Passion is the fuel for a positive life and makes you more interesting to others.

19 | Don’t compare yourself to anyone else.

Everyone has their own talents, abilities, and life to deal with. Focus on being a better you and not on how you “rank” with others. You will live a much happier life if you remember this.

20 | Most importantly, remember that you are worthy of love and have so much to offer the world.

Never allow anyone to treat you poorly or convince you that you do not matter. You were born for a purpose and to leave this earth better off than when you arrived.