10 Things to Say to Your Almost-Grown Child. Again.

As we speak, I’m living in the eye of the almost-grown storm.

Older Son is in grad school, getting an advanced degree in a subject I’m not at all sure will still offer employment opportunities when he’s finished.

Younger Son is a brand new college grad who has moved across the country to take a job that will improve the lives of others, but will barely support a meager lifestyle in his chosen city.

Daughter is on her way to an awesome college experience, where I hope she will revel in the pursuit of knowledge and maybe, along the way, follow her path to a career that allows her to eat.

You don’t have to read between the lines to see that I’m a bit conflicted (read: worried) about whether we’ve done a good enough job preparing our three wonderful, smart, hard-working, insightful, compassionate kids for the harsh environment of the real world. And lurking in the background — the recent horrific events in Colorado make the questions ever sharper.

I. Don’t. Know.

But here’s what I DO know: My almost-grown kids (and yours) need to hear some of the same things that we told them when they were tiny and just learning about the world. The words we spoke when they were small and we were constantly offering clear and concrete encouragement still resonate and bear repeating:

1) I love you. No matter what. Whether or not I agree with you. Whether or not I understand the decision you made. Whether or not I like your choice of partner. Whether or not you are living the life I dreamed for you. I love you unconditionally.

2) I’m SO proud of you. I’m proud of the adult you are becoming and how you live your values in your own way. I’m proud of the way you push me away/follow your own road/ trust your gut and find what you love. Even when it’s not my way.

3) You are smart and work hard at it! I’m amazed and thrilled by how much you know, how hard you work, and how far you can go. You know more about many things than I will ever know. Wow.

4) Go ahead and make a mistake. You will and you must. To find your way you have to make a few bloopers. I certainly have. Learn from them and move on. And most important; FORGIVE YOURSELF.

5) I’ll help you. I’m here and you can count on me. We are your parents and your safety net. For always.

6) I will call it as I see it. I will give you my point of view with kindness, but no sugar coating. Please hear it, and then you decide.

7) Dream big and don’t let the naysayers get you down. Achieving big things requires big vision. Others can’t always see it. Keep your eye on the ball and don’t listen to the noise, even if some of it comes from me.

8) Don’t forget please and thank youSimple good manners go a long way in life. Few expect it anymore because it’s so rare. Surprise them.

9) Talk about it. Remember when you were small and I used to say, “use your words”? I want to hear what it’s like for you. Tell me. Tell others. Keep talking until you’re convinced we understand.

10) You can come home again. We will always be here for you and welcome you. We love it when you come back to the nest, and will always encourage you to fly away again. This is your sanctuary. But no, I won’t do your laundry. Or be your ATM.

Love, Mom







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Rachel Zahn, MD is a pediatrician turned health writer who had three kids during medical school and pediatric training—crazy, huh?

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