Mama’s Tips for Grads of all Ages

article-new_ehow_images_a07_oq_mo_kindergarten-graduation-dress-ideas-800x800It’s that time of year, and advice is flowing like cheap beer at a frat party. Most of what we hear is directed at college grads who are launching into the big, bad world, but there are certain universal truths that apply to all who are making a leap to the next stage of life. Whether your preschooler is headed to kindergarten, or your medical school grad is beginning a seven year neurosurgery residency, some of these bear repeating. In no particular order …

80% of life is just showing up. Woody Allen (and lots of others) said it, and let it be a lesson to all. Be there. Participate. Don’t hide, and good things tend to happen. Two little words we might add to the sentence … on time.

Never underestimate the power of hard work. Sure it’s a cliche, but that doesn’t make it less true. The road worth traveling rarely has shortcuts, and determination — like showing up — makes a huge difference when you’re going for a goal, no matter what it is.

Pay it forward. This is a personal favorite. Random acts of kindness can change the world, and the power becomes exponential when everyone who touches us, and who we touch, makes it a mantra. So when you’re in line at the supermarket with a basket-full, and the mom behind you with two kiddos in tow has three measly items, step aside and let her be next. For extra credit, quietly pay her bill if you’re able. It will come back to you many times over, guaranteed.

When you break a crayon, don’t hide it at the bottom of the bunch. The ability to own up to a mistake, no matter how small, and then move on, becomes big as life gets more and more complicated. It’s much cleaner to say, “Sorry, I screwed up that time and I’ll do my best not to let it happen again,” than to put tons of energy into covering your tracks or making excuses. It’s an admirable quality.

Whenever possible, share the credit. It’s rare that one of us is 100% responsible for an accomplishment, and you can’t go wrong helping others to shine along with you. You look good, they look good, and together you’re more than the sum of your parts. Trust us on this.

Just. Be. Kind. Hold the door, share your cookies, ask the new kid to sit with you at lunch. Imagine what the world would look like if we all did that. Crazy wonderful.

Don’t put anything in an email (or text, or Facebook, or Youtube, or any other technology venue) that you wouldn’t want your mother to see. ‘Cause if she wouldn’t approve, chances are others won’t either. No many how many times we repeat this, each of us goes ahead and violates it multiple times a day. If picturing your mother doesn’t work, try imagining it on the front page of the NYTimes. 

Safety first! And that means physical safety. Don’t take foolish risks with your health that you will regret for years to come. Sub-categories of this include: don’t smoke, protect your sexual health, use alcohol cautiously, maintain healthy eating habits, avoid illegal substances, use lots of sunscreen and beware of high risk sports. There are thousands more, but it’s time to stop …

It IS cool to be smart. No matter what the ‘it’ crowd says. Way cool. Smart will serve you well beyond popular, good looking, athletically gifted, affluent, or thin. All those things can disappear in a heartbeat. Smart? It’s forever. Combine smart with #2 above (hard work) and you’re golden.

Resist the dare, but go for the challenge. Any request that’s followed by … I dare you … should be suspect, but if someone (and that includes parents) says you can’t do something because it’s too hard, ignore that. You’re guaranteed to fail at everything you don’t try.

Congratulations to the Class of 2013!





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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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