Parents, Here’s a Commencement Address for You as Your Child Graduates

The graduate in your family is about to begin a new chapter in life. This commencement — both the graduation ceremony and the life change — is at once an exciting and a scary moment for your loved one. Here’s how you can support them and help prepare them for what’s in store after commencement.

No Hovering

Let them know you’ll have their back, but try to resist holding their hand as they step out on their own. While it may be hard to let go, they need space to find their own way. As they navigate this new world of independence, offer emotional support. If they need it and you can afford it, you may want to offer some small financial assistance. But remember that although you can give them the tools, they have to use them.

If your graduate is still looking for a job, a pep talk and a couple of leads may be a helpful gesture, as long as you stop short of doing the job hunting for them. Let them know that job hunting is hard, but ultimately rewarding. According to Experience, a career services company, the average grad looks for 3 to 9 months before landing a job.

Tell them you’re rooting for them to succeed in their chosen career, but reassure them that it’s okay if they discover they don’t want to make it a lifelong commitment. Their first job may not be their dream job. In fact, Experience reported that most recent college grads plan to stay at their present employer for two years or less. As entrepreneur A.J. Agrawal wrote in Inc., this is a time for them to find their true calling by exploring different things.

Practical Lessons

As proud as they are of reaching this milestone in their formal education, it’s important for your graduate to realize that school hasn’t taught them everything they need to know. For instance, there are some real-life economic lessons to learn, like sticking to a budget and paying bills on time. Many high schools and colleges provide personal finance and money management courses these days, but the reality may not sink in until graduates get that first bill at their new apartment. To help get your child started, have them complete a household budget worksheet that can give them a well-rounded picture of their financial situation.

Then there are the job-related lessons they’ll learn beyond commencement, like adapting to their boss’s management style and learning to accept and grow from criticism. As someone who’s been in the work world longer, you can also counsel them about the importance of finding work-life balance. Providing friendly guidance and keeping an open dialog so your child can come to you with questions is a way to help them while still respecting their independence. The balance between hovering and helping has a lot to do with giving your child information with which to make decisions versus making those decisions for them.


Remind them that the word commencement means “a beginning”. It’s not the end of their learning, even if they never pursue any additional formal education. For the rest of their lives, they’ll be discovering more about the world and their place in it. Every day, they will learn something new about who they are, what’s important to them and what they’re good at. Tools like the MBTI personality test can help them recognize their strengths and how those strengths can translate into a satisfying career. Recommend self-help books that can provide inspiration.

Encourage your graduate to explore a variety of experiences, people and places. Support them in their quest to learn new skills, pursue new interests and use their talents to make a difference in the community.

Take time to share stories about your own journey of self-discovery, including what you learned from your challenges and failures. Viewing every life experience as a learning opportunity will serve your graduate well.

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