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7 Important Values Kids Need Before They Graduate

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Graduation season is in full throttle. All year, I’ve been watching friends go through the milestones of the senior year with their children—graduation pictures, college applications, senior banquets, the last first day of school, the last high school ball game, and the last prom.

Launching a child into the college or work world is no small thing. I’ve watched from the sidelines this year and breathed a sigh of relief that I don’t currently have a senior. But I do have a junior and the clock is ticking on the time I still have to teach him all he needs to be prepared for launch.

We’ve worked really hard to check all the boxes he needs to be ready to graduate. Volunteer hours? Check. Four credits of science? Check. SAT exams? Check.

All of these have prepared him academically. But graduation is more than an academic pivot point. Character will play a huge role in how our children do post-graduation. To really thrive, here are 7 lessons your child needs to learn before graduation.

1. The value of hard work.

As a young teen, my husband spent two summers working hay at his uncle’s farm in upstate New York. He loved the time with his uncle and earned a bit of money; but mostly, he said he forever learned the value of hard work. Thomas Edison famously stated, “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.” So here are 6 ways to teach your kids a good work ethic.

2. The value of adversity.

As parents, it’s natural to want to shield our children from adversity. While our initial response may be to step in and try to fix the situation, adversity is an excellent teacher. There are lessons our kids will learn through adversity, and character that will be shaped that can never be learned if everything is always easy. Here are some thoughts on how to teach your child about working hard and trusting God.

3. The value of true friendship.

In a digital world, our kids need to learn what it means to be a friend and to have true friends. Friends are not the same as likes and followers. A real friend is loyal, keeps confidences, doesn’t compete but celebrates and provides both encouragement and accountability. Teaching our kids how to find and be a true friend is important. Ask your kids these questions to learn about their friendships.

4. The value of giving to others.

Most adults have learned the blessing that comes from giving to others. But in a selfie-dominated world, teens today need to understand the joy that comes from giving to others—especially when that person can’t give back or when no one is watching. They need to learn to give not just for volunteer hours, but out of compassion for other people. So ask your child to point out the needs of others and look for ways to meet those needs.

5. The value of integrity.

Integrity is who we are when no one is looking. It means being fair when it might cost us, sincere in our relationships and honest in our dealings. John Wooden, who built the hugely successful UCLA basketball program, urged his players to “be more concerned with character than reputation because your character is who you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.” Use this to help you teach your kids to be honest.

6. The value of family.

Moms, this may look self-serving but it’s actually healthy for our kids to maintain strong family relationships. It may look different when they go off to college, but our teens need to understand the value of carving out time for little brothers and calling grandparents regularly. Or, you can try keeping in touch the old-fashioned way.

7. The value of unrushed moments.

I fear this may be the hardest lesson of all to teach. It seems our culture just gets busier. New technology means we can be more productive so that we’re always plugged in and rarely off-grid. Moments are not made and relationships can’t be built when they constantly compete with that pace. We are wise to model for our kids how to regularly push pause on the world’s noise so that we can make spiritual and emotional connections. Schedule some regular tech-free evenings or vacation and model pushing pause on a regular basis.

What is the one area of these seven that you most need to focus on with your teen?


What are some ways we can regularly unplug as a family?

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