What Not to Say to Graduating Seniors

What NOT to Say to Graduating Seniors

It’s that time!

High school seniors all over the country are relieved.  And rejoicing.  And celebrating. We will join in the merriment.  Then there will be those among us who will, without malice or awareness, put a damper on it. Simply with the words that come out of their mouths.

Everyone should think carefully before they speak.

Do NOT say, “You are going to look back on this and realize that these were the best years of your life.”

Really?  How depressing is that?  Someone’s whole perspective on life is going to be based on four years?

Being a teenager is hard and those of us with some years in between graduation day and today forget that. Sure, there are advantages to being a teenager and adults are quick to rattle them off.  What is ignored is that the majority of teenagers are following an education path that they had little or no input in.  They are given very few options and are just expected to perform.  They don’t usually have the ability to even choose where they will do this and if they are having difficulties with their classmates they are stuck, for 12-14 years no less.  As adults, if we hate where we work we at least have the option of looking for a new job.  Teens tend to characterize school as a prison and in a sense it is.  There is no way out but through.

If they got through it but it was a horrendous experience and they are told this is as good as it gets…what do they have to look forward to?  Misery and despair?

If high school was a great experience and they are told that they have already peaked…what do they have to look forward to?  Gloom and Doom?

Do NOT ask, “So what are you going to do with your life?”

What an unfair scary question!

Does anyone really know what they want to do with their life when they are 17 or 18? Even if they joyfully decide to go to college and pick a major, how will they know for certain if that is something they will even enjoy for a couple of years, let alone their whole life?

That is just too much pressure and who says you can’t change your mind?

I only personally know one person who decided what they wanted to be, got a college degree, worked hard to get their dream job, and stayed in that same job their whole life.   Most of the people I know got where they are on a wandering path:

*The friend that went to college part time for nine years to get a degree he never used but worked his way through food service until he was a vice president of a distribution company.

*The friend who was pre-med and ended up loving her job as a college recruiter.

*The friend who skipped college, was a hospital transporter, worked his way up in the hospital into the IT department and was then recruited by a small tech company that didn’t stay small where he is now an executive.

*The co-worker who is a lawyer turned pastry chef.

*The 30-year restaurant manager who went back to school and became a nurse.

None of these people knew what they would do for the rest of their lives! Nor did they just have a single occupation. So why are we asking teenagers to try to determine that for themselves?

Graduates don't need your 'adulting' horror stories. Let's send them forth with encouragement! Click To Tweet

Do NOT relay horror stories or regale them with the ‘tragedies’ of being an adult to prove that childhood is better.

They are oh so happy to be done with high school but they are nervous.  Each and every one of them has to start a new chapter, whichever road they choose. Not one of them gets a pass or an easy way out. There is no need to spook them further.

Let’s send them into the future with a little positivity and encouragement instead!

What We Can Say Instead

“What exciting things do you have lined up?”

“What’s your next step?”

“What are you looking forward to the most now that high school is done with?”

“Are you looking forward to the next big adventure?”

“I’m so excited for you, there are great things coming up!”

Do you have any other positive things you would say to the graduates?

photo credit: Akire Andrade


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