“So…be your name Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray
or Mordecai Ali Van Allen O’Shea,
you’re off to Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting.
So…get on your way!”
Dr. Seuss, Oh, The Places You’ll Go!
This year is very special for my family- both my son and my daughter are graduating: my son from high school and my daughter from middle school (the school she has attended since nursery school). It is true what everyone says, “They grow up so fast.” But, what does not have to be true is focusing on the more immediate, but less important aspects of raising children without reflecting on what is important in the long-term. Graduations and transitions naturally lend themselves as periods of reflection. So even if you don’t have a child or student who is experiencing a big graduation, I ask you to stop, reflect, and ultimately share with the children who are in your care what you want for them in the long run, and not just today.
How can you do this? What if instead of one or two select students having to write commencement speeches, the parents teachers, and coaches of the world wrote to their children and students. What would we want to say? Ask yourself, if I needed to write a speech to a child in my life as he or she moved from one transitional place to another, what would the message be? Would it be pick up your coat? Don’t forget to study for math? How did you do on your English test? Or would it be different? Would the content be more about being a person of leadership and support to others? Would it be about finding balance and strength in their lives? Would it be about love and pride? I think you all would agree that the message would be more about the latter questions rather than the former.
So my question to you is, how do we avoid the trap of letting all or most of our conversations with our kids be about the small daily occurrences instead of the long-term picture? As humans we have a natural tendency to focus on the immediate, but not earth shattering, activities in our lives. Stephen Covey labels this tendency as “urgent, but not important” in his book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. How can we focus instead on what Stephen Covey calls, “non-urgent, but important.”
One way to accomplish this is to stop, take a moment, and reflect. Even better, write your own commencement speech to your children. In this speech, let the children in your life know how you feel about them. How proud you are of them. What your hopes are for them in the future. Even if the child in your life is graduating from 1st to 2nd grade, write a commencement speech for him or her. Let what you write be a shining light that gives your parenting, teaching, or mentoring its focus and direction.
By the way, as many of you know, I am a big believer of not just “talking the talk,” but also “walking the walk.” So today after I told my son, “he could not leave the house until the clothes were picked up from the bathroom floor,” I also (not right after, but a little later) told him, “I am proud of you and the choices you have made,” and “I love you.” Although the urgency to say the words of love and encouragement was not the same as my request that he clean up and, the fact remains that my son still did not pick up his clothes after I reminded him, I know that ultimately it will be my words of love, encouragement, and pride that will shape my son. Happy graduation to all the graduates and their very proud parents, teachers, and mentors. Wishing you all the best during this busy, but IMPORTANT time of year.
If you choose to do this activity, I would love to hear from you. Send me an email with your commencement speech. And remember, “you’re off to Great Places!” – Caren
Please check out my website at drbaruchfeldman.com for additional blogs and articles and follow me on twitter at Caren Feldman@carenfeldman. In June, I will be presenting at the Scarsdale library on helping children with stress and worry /car-conference/scarsdale-library-helping-children-teens-worry-stress/ and at the Albert Ellis Institute in NYC on CBT strategies for school age children. /car-conference/workshop-at-the-albert-ellis-institute-cognitive-behavioral-strategies-for-children/
See links for more details.