Sending a newly adult child off to college or into the working world takes a bit of a leap of faith. After all, most of our kids are barely 18 when they leave for college, the armed services, or to pursue work. We know that part of them is grown up and part of them still wants us to accompany them to a doctor’s appointment or comfort them in the middle of the night after a particularly troublesome nightmare.
We are often keenly aware of the things they don’t yet know.
Maybe understanding that they’re not full grown is part of what makes it so hard for us to see them go. We wonder what will happen to them out there in the world. After all, we’ve been there. We know what’s involved. We worry that others will influence them or try to steer them the wrong way. Will they make the right choices?
It is said that knowledge is power. A strong knowledge of the things that matter most, like who we are and what we stand for, can help make our children impermeable. Here are 10 things every parent should make sure their child knows before they leave home:
1 | How they learn
It’s important that we know our temperaments and how we learn. Every teen should understand whether they are visual, aural, physical, or verbal learners. There are other styles of learning as well. Understanding how they learn will help them do well in school.
For example, aural or verbal learners will want to attend every college lecture so that they can hear the material presented while a visual learner will want to save some time to read the material on his or her own. Some learn by doing; others do better with instruction.
Knowing how they learn best also includes understanding their sleeping and waking patterns. What time of day do they feel most awake? What motivates them to study or to work hard? What offers their biggest distraction?
2 | How to live in the present
“The Power of Now” by Eckert Tolle is a great treatise on what it means to live in the present. Living in the present produces a richer life, because we are more focused on what we are doing when we are doing it. Sometimes we rush through our days so quickly that we don’t even remember eating that fresh bagel or seeing the sun come up.
Also, focusing on the present diminishes both regret and worry. Things that happened in the past and cannot be changed won’t produce as much anxiety if we don’t allow ourselves to dwell on them. Similarly, living in the present teaches us not to worry about the future.
A particularly unnerving presentation scheduled for tomorrow should be prepared today and then not worried about until tomorrow. Worrying about a scary event in the future just means that we will live through the event more than once, each and every time we think about it. Life experience often proves that things are never as bad as we anticipate them to be anyway.
3 | To help others
It’s difficult to remain sad or angry when reaching out to help someone. When we focus on looking around us to find someone who might need our help, we forget about our own struggle.
We’ve all read studies suggesting that helping others produces a flow of positive brain chemicals, which make our moods happier anyway. Sometimes reaching out to someone in need reminds us that what we’ve decided is particularly troublesome actually isn’t all that bad.
4 | There’s no such thing as deserving something
We must earn what we get every step of the way. To conclude that we deserve is to stop trying. Our children should understand the hard work and sacrifice that went into earning the funds that allow them to go to college or simply to raise them this far.
One never gets ahead or does much for the world by thinking they are entitled to things. We must teach our children to have the expectation to work hard for everything they get. When we’re busy working hard, good things will come, like good grades, promotions, and financial security.
5 | There is more value in listening than in speaking
We already know our own opinions. We learn much more by listening to someone else’s.
Good listeners are people that others like to have around and are sought out as friends. Everyone likes to feel that they’re being listened to when they speak. Effective listening means paying attention to the speaker, his tone, his body language, and his message, and waiting to be sure we understand what was said before jumping in.
I once knew a professor who paused 10 to 20 seconds before ever responding to another person’s comment or question. While sometimes the pause seemed long, I can guarantee he never put his foot in his mouth.
6 | Positive energy begets positive energy
This particular lesson is one our teens often learn by doing. During the testy high school years, I would tell my moody teens to go to school and do positive acts and say positive things all day long. They would inevitably return home with stories of kind things their friends and teachers said and did back for them.
The world is like a mirror. It reflects the image we show it. The more positive we are, the more we will attract and feel positive things around us.
7 | To stand up for what they believe in
But first, they should do their research and be certain they understand and agree with what they promote. There’s a lot of bias out there, so we need to investigate for ourselves before taking a position.
Teens need to understand the importance of not taking someone else’s word for it or adopting someone else’s point of view on important issues, especially when they get to college where some students and professors are activist in nature. Chances are there will be more to the issue than originally led to believe.
Teens need to be mindful about what they take in. Everything they absorb from books, television, movies, and social media can and will have an influence on them. Just as advertising is intended to sway how consumers feel about something, often art, music, and entertainment media have a message or agenda. Encourage your teens not to take everything at face value and to understand that people sometimes act with the intent of influencing others – especially young people still trying to figure things out for themselves.
8 | They should do their best
Putting our best out into the world is a question of branding. Ask your teen to consider what they want their brand to be. In other words, what do they want to be known for? Just like Apple Inc. is known for cutting-edge technology, we as individual members of society are known for what we produce.
If a teen does sloppy work at his night job, he will be known as lazy. If a college student gets into trouble for being rowdy on campus, he will be known to the college (and perhaps to prospective employers later) as troublesome. Reputations can be difficult to erase. Teens should make sure their brand is something they can always be proud of.
9 | Where they come from and why
When teens get out into the world, they begin to see things differently. They begin to question their parents’ beliefs and why they hold them. These are important foundational questions.
Teens have the right to know what their parents stand for and why they live the way they do. Understanding where their parents come from will help young adults sort through the deluge of opinions and begin to form their own based on thought and reason. This will also prepare them for people they meet who want to sway their opinions.
10 | No one can take away their beliefs, or their honor
In the end, whatever happens to us, the only things we can always claim as our own are what we believe in and how we choose to behave. When asked to say or do things they don’t believe in, teens should understand that it’s important to hold on to their principles.
That for which we are willing to stand defines our identities. It’s what drives us. We need to identify those principles and not give them up easily. What we say and do are of paramount importance if we are to make a positive mark on this world.
Not every teen leaves home ready to think about profound issues. But, as their parents, we can at least start them down the path and know that we’re sending them off prepared for the next stage of their journeys.