In the past nine years my three kids have collectively graduated from three high schools and two colleges. Next year there’s another graduation, and the year after another. Wow that’s a lot of celebrating.
These moments involve transition and change, which is exciting but can be scary too. Transitions are both happy and pivotal. How do we hold and embrace all of these ideas?
I remember when my first son graduated from high school. He chose a college far away. I was filled with excitement for him, yet I was anticipating missing him and, honestly, I was anxious for my “baby” to be so far away.
When I’m anxious, I tend to want to do everything for my kids even though I know that’s not what they need to become competent and independent and thrive. In those moments I’ve learned the best thing I can do is move away and write. I write about times I’ve been anxious and then reflect on what worked or how I got through. By writing these stories and reflecting on my own and their strengths and strategies I feel more resilient and calm.
My other “bad” habit when I’m anxious is to give unsolicited advice. This usually backfires as it sends a subtle message that I don’t trust my kids or that they can’t figure things out on their own. But that doesn’t mean I can’t share wisdom.
Again, I turn to writing – this time a letter. The purpose is to show my kids, through stories, what I want them to know. I might remind my son of my own freshman year when I struggled but got through by finding a mentor and relying on my new friends. Or that in joining a team I found camaraderie and the structure my mind needed to thrive. The message is not a command to do as I did. But by sharing the strategies that worked for me, I hope they will see options and find their own way.
But let’s get back to the exciting celebratory piece.
Graduation is a major milestone. It’s important to mark that in a special way. Whether its moving from 8th grade to high school, high school to college, college to a new job or grad school, the milestone deserves to be celebrated. But I know (having been there, more than once) that when you’re busiest and most emotional, it can be hard to say what you feel. It can be hard to put in words all the things you want your kids to know.
A letter is a perfect way to show your kid (or grandchild, godchild, niece or nephew) what you want them to know – what you admire in them, what strengths you see, what you hope and dream for them on this next step in their life.
And these letters are perfect for graduations and also other milestones including birthdays or first day of that new school or new job.
A letter is something tangible that makes them see and feel all the love you have for them, the ways you admire and believe in them. And it’s a gift that would let them hear your voice when they need it the most.
Legacy letters last a lifetime and help you express just how much you care for the people in your life. I invite you to grab a copy of Deepening Connections with Legacy Letters where I show you how to craft one from the heart.
P. S. Many graduations have already happened, but you are not too late to give your graduate a letter from your heart. In fact, I wish I had been able to include my thoughts about graduation itself into my letter to my first grad. So I wrote my letter to my next kid after graduation so I could include some of the details of that special day – how proud I was watching her walk with her class and shaking the college President’s hand.