Here are my notes from Episode 006: A Gift Only For You
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Can you remember how it felt to finally be done with high school? Halleluiah, right! It was a long time ago for me, but I still remember the feeling of walking into that auditorium, hearing that song we all hear at graduations, and knowing that THIS WAS IT! All the memories, all the drama, all the practices and games, all the performances, and all those times I got locked in my locker as a freshman by a few upperclassmen bullies. Okay, that’s another story for another time…
Well, high school graduation season is here again. And, if your son or daughter is about to make the big walk across that stage, I’m sure you are already stocking up Kleenex. This is such an exciting time for graduates and their families. It’s also an important time. Because, everything is about to change for your family.
The transition from high school to “what’s next” is THE PERFECT TIME to help prepare your son or daughter for the next chapter of their life. I’m going to help you get there today.
If your son or daughter isn’t graduating this spring, you need to keep listening too. Because, first, what I’m going to share with you today are timeless truths that every son and daughter needs to know. Secondly, sooner than you can probably imagine, your child too will be scheduling college campus visits and posing for those yearbook senior photos. It will all be here before you know it! And, when it does, you and your child will be ready!
First of all, let me say: Congratulations! You did it. No, I’m not saying this to your graduate. I’m saying this to you! Every parent knows that a senior can’t walk across that stage, shake their principal’s hand, do that dance, and pose for a picture without a whole lot of help from mom and dad! RIGHT!?
I mean, shouldn’t there be a celebration, like a “parent graduation” for all parents too! After all, mom and dad did a whole lot to get their little graduate to this moment. Think about the journey you’ve been on for the past 17-18 years.
Remember what it felt like when you realized you were expecting? I sure do! Amy and I were told we might have trouble actually ever getting pregnant. We tried for years, and after being married 8 years, it finally happened!
I can’t believe that was 18 years ago for us! Where did all that time go?
Remember all of those long nights getting up to feed your newborn, changing diapers, and that new baby smell?
Then there was the “learning to walk moments,” “learning to talk moments,” pre-school, kindergarten, and then wow…life has rarely slowed down since has it? Take a moment and take it all in. You deserve it. You are about to close a chapter on some of the best parenting moments of your life. What a ride it’s been, huh? In the past seventeen-plus years, your graduate:
Rode a bike without training wheels for the first time.
Spent the night away from home (and Mom and Dad) for the first time.
Got a first A.
And, hopefully didn’t get a first F.
Popped a few pimples.
Had a first crush.
Probably had a first date.
Possibly prayed to have a first seconddate.
Went to prom.
Scored a touchdown.
Worked a first job.
Received a first paycheck.
Drove your car.
Maybe got a speeding ticket.
Sang a solo in front of a packed house…and killed it!
Your son/daughter has covered a lot of ground since their first breath, since the first day of school. They’ve made a lot of memories and experienced a lot of firsts. And now, a new firstthat’s also about a last—high school graduation.
Countless others have stood where your teen is now standing and thought, Free at last, free at last, thank God Almighty, I am free at last!
And, just as quickly, countless others have stood where your teen is, only to realize that “Thank God I’m free” can easily turn into “What in the world just happened to me?!” Or, “What do I do now!?”
I have talked with so many parents and students who have experienced the mix of emotions that this moment in life brings. I have a unique perspective to it all because countless students and parents have shared with me the joy, nervousness, excitement and fear that families experience in this moment of graduation and this transition into the “next chapter.”
The few months following graduation from high school are a mix of “wonderful” and “challenging.” It’s an emotional time, especially for parents. You probably already know this.
This upcoming summer can be some of the best times for your family. They can also be some of THE most influential three months of your parenting. And, this is what I want to talk with you about today. I’m going to spend several episodes helping you make the most of the time you have this summer with your son or daughter before their “what’s next.” Whether it’s college, getting a job, joining the armed forces or traveling, you know this…things are never going to be the same.
You have a unique opportunity this summer to make memories while also preparing your young adult for “what’s next.”
As I talk throughout these two episodes, I will do so under the assumption that your son/daughter is graduating. But as I said earlier, even if your son or daughter isn’t graduating in 2019, you need to keep listening. What I’m going to give you in these episodes doesn’t have to be something you wait to apply once your child graduates. These truths are just that – truths. So, whether your son or daughter is graduating or not, keep listening.
And, I want to let you know about the content for these two episodes. In this episode, Getting My Graduate Ready For “What’s Next!”,I’m going to tackle five critical realities about the “what’s next” for you and for them. Moving forward, it’s going to be so helpful for your son/daughter to have a heads-up about these 5 realities.
In next week’s episode, I’m going to give you some great ideas on things you can do to really enjoy the summer with your graduate or, of course, any of your kids.
In case you didn’t know, I wrote a book for graduates entitled: The Graduate Handbook. You can get your graduate a copy at Amazon or simply at jeffreydean.com. It’s a great gift for any graduate, and in it I outline essential life principles to helping graduates discover their purpose, keep their faith, and prepare for what’s next!
All right, during the next five years, change will be inevitable in many areas of your son/daughter’s life, such as moving away from home, attending and graduating from college, choosing a career, choosing a spouse, developing lifelong relationships, starting a company, joining a new church, traveling abroad, living abroad, purchasing a house, buying a car, applying for a loan, and so much more!
The next five years of their life are critical years for them. During these years, your son/daughter will make some major decisions that will affect the rest of their life and your family.
Exciting? It should be. Overwhelming? At times it will be. Thrilling? Hopefully so!
Your graduate stands at a threshold with two guarantees: One, they will never have to go to high school again! Two, everything is going to change and change fast!
Of course, nor you or them can control the unknown or unexpected. But you can help position them so that, when change does happen, they aren’t taken off-guard. I want to remind you of some of the big changes you and I experienced along the way when we graduated so that you can help your child be prepared to best respond to the “what’s next” of post-graduation.
The #1 “What’s Next”: Freedom & Responsibility Will Be Required
Within a few months of receiving my high school diploma, I had moved out of the house, out of the state, and into a dorm room and was living with a guy I didn’t know on a college campus full of people I had never met before. And it didn’t start out so well.
You see, while in high school, I had wanted to pierce my ear. Keep in mind that this was long before it became the norm, especially for a guy, to have his ear, nose, lip, chin, eyebrow, or any number of other odd places pierced. My dad was adamant that as long as I lived at home, I’d better not put a hole in any of my body parts. So, as you have probably surmised by now, once I got to college, I pierced my ear. In fact, I did it the first week of school. To save money, I had the piercing done by someone I met down the hall in my dorm. My life, my ear, and my freedom, right?
One of the biggest misconceptions most any 18 year-old has is that being a legal adult makes him or her a mature adult. Actually, the only big difference between your seventeenth birthday and your eighteenth birthday is that, starting with your eighteenth birthday, you get to go to jail with the big people if you screw up. So in this light, I guess I should have paused to consider that allowing someone I barely knew to stick a needle through my skin in his dorm room probably wasn’t the smartest move. Several nights later, after a $420 visit to the ER because of an infected ear, I found out the important principle that with freedom comes responsibility.
Until now, your child has had YOU helping to set boundaries in their life and making many of the big decisions for them. Now it’s their turn. Now more than ever, they are about to have the freedom and responsibility to make their own decisions and set their own boundaries. In short, from here on—every choice matters!
This is an important one to remind your child: with freedom comes responsibility!
The #2 “What’s Next”: Life Will Never Be the Same
Of course, there is no way to know for sure what is ahead for them in life. But they can be sure of this—life will never again be as it was while your son/daughter was in high school. Whether this is good or bad depends on many of the choices they make, especially within the next twelve months of their life.
Many of these changes are obvious, such as a new campus, job, friends, bedroom, and more. And many, if not most, of these changes they will probably welcome. One biggie is that, from now on, consequences from a poor choice can be much greater than ever before. Up until now, you have probably disciplined them in love to the best of your ability. Going forward, however, mistakes no longer simply mean that you are grounded or lose your driving privileges for a weekend. Mistakes can be extremely costly, such as getting expelled from college, being fired from a job, losing income, being incarcerated, and more. In short, the world’s system of discipline won’t judge the same as Mom and Dad have in the past.
The #3 “What’s Next”: Friends Will Scatter
Most if not all of your son /daughter’s friends will go their different ways after graduation. Some will go to college, others will begin a career, others will join the armed forces, and others will get married.
In the years since I graduated high school, I have seen only two of my high school friends. I have very little information as to where those friends are now or what they are doing with their lives. I have no idea where the rest of my high school friends are.
The likelihood that they will no longer associate regularly with high school friends after graduation is extremely high.
The #4 “What’s Next”: Your Beliefs Will Be Tested
This is a big one for your graduate. I want to spend some time here.
I still remember being shocked hearing: “I will give you an F if you don’t remove the Scripture references from your term paper!”
I heard those words from my English 101 professor when I was a first-semester freshman in college – attending a Christian school. Yes, a Christian school.
I don’t remember everything I wrote in that paper, but I do remember that the grade I received for it would be 100 percent of my grade for that class. I also remember using Scripture references several times throughout the paper to support my thesis. Thus, my professor’s startling comment.
My professor was adamant that God’s Word was not relevant and reliable and had no validity in her class whatsoever. I knew my beliefs would be tested at some point during my collegiate experience. I never fathomed it would come this soon, not to mention from my professor at a Christian institution. I absolutely did not want to begin my collegiate career with an F. I also knew that I would be disappointed in myself if I didn’t write what I believed in that paper and stand by it.
I chose to keep the Scriptures in the paper.
I still remember standing in my parent’s front yard over Christmas break at the end of my first semester as a freshman. There I stood opening the envelope that had just arrived via the mail – my first semester grades.
I was surprised to see that my professor didn’t flunk me, but she did give me a D. It was the first D I’d ever made. I wish I could tell you that was the ONLY D I received throughout college. Unfortunately, I cannot! But it isthe one I’m most proud of.
I can’t emphasis enough the importance of YOU getting your child ready for this reality. Because, they are in for a similar ride!
Your son or daughter’s beliefs may not align with mine as it relates to God. But know this: their beliefs will be tested, whatever they are! This happened to me, and not just in English 101. By the time I finished my freshman year of college, my beliefs about God, heaven, and hell came into question from new friends and co-workers that I made and met. And it wasn’t just my spiritual beliefs that were questioned.
Likewise, there is a high probability that your child’s beliefs about abortion, homosexuality, bisexuality, drinking, euthanasia, divorce, politics, the death penalty, and more will come into question in one way or another during the first few years after high school. This happened to ME, it probably happened to YOU, and it WILL happen to your CHILD.
Let me remind you – our kids need us to take the lead on helping them shape their world-views. As I discuss often on Family Strong, there is an incessant message permeating culture that tells our kids “anything goes!” To many, right isn’t right, wrong isn’t wrong, and what feels good wins! My kids and yours are being overwhelmed with information that is often misleading and compromising at best.
They need us to help them reason with it all, to make informative decisions about morality and truth, and to help them recognize deception for what it is.
Simply: our kids need us to teach them how to discern right over wrong and to learn how to apply the truth of God’s Word to their lives as they make decisions.
Here is a great conversation kick-starter for your family. And, just know…this one needs to be one of those conversations that is ongoing. But, know this too – – it won’t KEEP going if it doesn’t GET going!
For your next conversation moment, maybe over dinner or possibly for your next family devotional night, ask this question:
“Do you know what you believe and why you believe it?”
Or, maybe frame this question this way:
“Have you ever stopped to consider how, if asked, you would answer such questions as the following ones?
- What happens in the afterlife?
- Is it okay to marry someone of a different faith?
- Is abortion ever okay? Why or why not?
- What does the Bible say about homosexuality?
- If God loves everyone, why does He condemn people to hell?”
This week’s Family Focus moment is from Carey, a father of a girl who graduated in 2018:
“Jeffrey, I asked my daughter to tell my why she believes what she does about the Bible, God, and eternity. Once she began to talk, she revealed to her mom and me that her beliefs were mostly our beliefs. She wasn’t quite sure why she believed what she did, other than the fact that she has just adopted the beliefs of mom and dad. This was tough for me to hear Jeffrey. But, I am so glad I asked her. What began to happen over the next few months was a very healthy conversation about her ‘owning her beliefs’ – – about her believing NOT because we want her to but because she CHOOSES to believe. It has been a time of great growth for her to know what she believes and to develop confidence in her beliefs that I know will carry her throughout her life.”
Carey, thank you so much for reminding us of the importance of having these critical conversations with our kids!
I find this to be true all the time as I hear from moms and dads. Their kids believe, because mom and dad believe. What I want for my daughters is for them to formulate their own beliefs and to find a true love relationship with Jesus Christ based upon THEIR walk with Him. I can’t MAKE this happen. But, I DO know it’s my RESPONSIBILITY to HELP make this happen.
Asking your kids questions about what they believe and why they believe it like Carey asked his daughter can be extremely powerful moments in helping them develop a biblical world view that can carry them throughout their entire lives!
And, now more than at any previous time in their young life, it is critical they know what they believe and why they believe it. Because, these beliefs WILL BE TESTED!
Up until this point in life, your kids have likely been surrounded and influenced by people with many, if not most, of the same beliefs as theirs. You as their parents, other family members, and current friends probably view things in a similar manner. THIS WILL CHANGE!
It is highly likely that some, maybe many of their new friends and acquaintances will have a different set of values than their values and the values of your family.
The potential fallout from this reality: If your son or daughter isn’t confident in what he or she believes and why he or she believes it, they will begin shifting in their beliefs, and eventually will become someone very different from the person they are today.
The point I want you to grab here is that your child’s beliefs will be challenged, and challenged often, in a variety of ways from a mix of people.
Therefore, this next reality is crucial:
The #5 “What’s Next”: Accountability Is Critical
Several people in my life today hold me accountable to all kinds of things, but especially to God’s truths. These are a variety of people—some are family members and some are friends, some are similar in age to me and some are older. Helping me manage my time, pushing me to reach my potential, calling me out when I appear to be straying spiritually, and praying with me and for me are just a few of the ways that some of the closest people in my life help to keep me accountable. Such a process isn’t always comfortable or easy for me or them. However, these people are invaluable to me. And I hope I am the same for them.
You know, I wish I’d had such people in my life when I was a graduate, especially during my first few years in college. I wish someone had told me the importance of having accountability partners and mentors in my life.
I need accountability in my life. You need accountability in your life. Your son needs accountability in his life. Your daughter needs accountability in her life.
I can’t stress enough how critical it is that my kids and yours surround themselves with people who will keep them accountable.
Now, the quantity of people is not as important as the quality. This role cannot simply be filled by close friends or peers doing what they normally do. I am talking about the kind of accountability that isn’t satisfied with yes or no answers—accountability that goes beyond “I’m doing fine” answers, accountability that will look my daughters and your kids eyeball to eyeball and ask them the tough questions about life.
Such counsel may not be easy to find. But I am confident it is so important to their success.
So, before I end this episode, let me tell you 4 things about counsel. Actually, I’m going to talk for a moment just like I would if I were sharing this with your child. I’ve never done this on Family Strong. But, I want you to listen, and I’m going to talk about the importance of counsel as if I were saying these four truths directly to your son or daughter.
Not all counsel is godly.
“Every word of God is flawless; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. Do not add to his words or he will rebuke you and prove you a liar.” – Proverbs 30:5-6
Sometimes even those with the best of intentions can mislead you by misquoting or mistaking what the Bible says. I learned quickly in college that there will almost always be a peer, a professor, or a co-worker who claims allegiance to God but offers counsel contrary to that claim. As you receive counsel from others, always use Scripture as the gauge by which you test such counsel to determine whether it is of God or humans. Simply put, if a person’s suggestions, recommendations, or condemnations aren’t in sync with God’s, then such counsel is wrong, no matter how popular, culturally relevant, or accepted the person!
Your child needs you to remind them of everything I just said. There are innumerable voices competing for your child’s ear. Not ALL of these voices will be in-line with, as the writer in Proverbs proclaims, the words of God that are flawless.
Not all counsel needs receiving.
You can’t always control the counsel you hear, but you can control the counsel you choose to take in and act upon. Pray that God will guard your heart from hearing, receiving, and retaining ungodly counsel.
“Let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance.” – Proverbs 1:5
Some counsel will require humility.
There is a myth that once you graduate from high school you suddenly have more knowledge. The key word here is myth. Yes, hopefully the fact that you are graduating means that you have gained knowledge. But graduating doesn’t mean you have gained all knowledge! The older I get, the more I seem to meet people who have more life experience, more wisdom, and more discernment than I. And though their counsel has often left me humbled, it has also brought to my attention areas of my life that need addressing while equally pushing me to be a better person.
Godly counsel is second to God’s counsel.
“You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into your glory.” – Psalm 73:24
The writer of Psalm 73:24 understood that no counsel was more real and relevant for him than God’s. Likewise, God desires a real relationship with you. Know this now: if you commit daily to spending time with God, His counsel will guide you and grow you in ways far beyond your post–high school aspirations and dreams.
This is a big time for your graduate and for your family. Contrary to the voices of many, this is NOT the time for you to step back. It’s a time, a really special time, when you can lean-in to your son or daughter and really make the most of this upcoming summer before they transition to “what’s next.”
So, create moments over the summer to discuss all that I’ve detailed here today. And, if you’re still on the hunt for a great graduation gift, why not get my book for graduates, The Graduate Handbook. In it I detail some of the big challenges your child is sure to face in the next 5 years of life. You can get a copy today at jeffreydean.com.
Jeffrey Dean is a family influencer, author, and counselor whose mission is to help build strong families. For information about having Jeffrey speak in your community, contact our office.