|My husband and I had the pleasure of taking our daughter, Katie, on college tours last week. The campuses were lovely with both young adults and spring flowers sprouting and growing.
And yes, we are one of those families that actually sits through the tours and listens to their advice. One of the Admissions Deans shared that admissions officers desire grades improving during the high school years in an upward trajectory, though sometimes that is not the case. He continued, telling the students, if your grades take a dip, just tell us “why”. He said that the students may have had a long illness or perhaps their parents divorced, or a beloved grandparent died…any number of things could have happened that the admissions team would want to know.
He continued by saying, “Explain, but don’t complain.”
That applies to many of my coaching clients, I thought. They need to “Explain, but not complain.” Sometimes my clients feel puzzled about what to do when a project they are working on is over budget, or won’t be completed by the deadline. They realize the problem, but they don’t want to tell their superiors “just yet.” They put off reporting for months, the problem continues to worsen, and when their superiors learn about it, they are furious.
Other clients are unsure about what to say when a colleague, or two or even three, aren’t pulling their weight.
As a responsible employee, it’s imperative to let colleagues, and especially superiors, know when things are going awry. It’s not a matter of “if” they should be told, but more a matter of “how.” That’s when “explain, but don’t complain” is so valuable. Practicing explaining the situation without even a hint of complaint is what will make you a shining star in your work place. It’s how high school seniors are being taught to write and it’s valuable at work too.
My very first manager at Bay State Junior College used to say, “Come with the problem and at least one solution.” So, that would be “explain, don’t complain and then problem solve” … but that’s not nearly as catchy.
For my readers, first person to come up with a rhyming phrase to integrate “come with a solution” with “explain, don’t complain,” will win a prize.
And even if you don’t win a prize, the ability to explain without complaint or blame will take you very far during your college essays, your first job and all other endeavors.
So your son or daughter is off to college. Now…what about you?
You will have more time now than you have likely had in about 18-25 years. Below are what my friends who have enjoyed the challenge have done with the time.
Dating – That’s right, why should the kids have all the fun? My single friends have gone on-line. My married friends have re-discovered why they got married to that person beside them. It can be fun to find that person again. If you think date night was important when the babies arrived, it’s even more important now.
Start a new health habit. – Train for a half marathon. Walk around the block each night. And of course, my favorite, begin or continue your yoga practice.
Start a new hobby – The more time-consuming the better. What will it be? Golf? Gardening? Gourmet cooking?
Volunteer – There are so many little league teams that need coaches; food pantries that need organization; elderly neighbors who need a friend.
Reinvest in your career – Go back to school. Take a certificate course. Consider a new avocation. If you are well and in your fifties or sixties, you could have a wonderful 10-20 year “run” in a new profession. Your kids don’t have to be the only ones that “take off”.
For many of us who are in good health, we can look forward to (almost) as many good and productive years ahead of us as we have already experienced.
Some good reads on this topic:
What Should I Do With the Rest of My Life?: True Stories of Finding Success, Passion, and New Meaning in the Second Half of Life Paperback – March 1, 2011, by Bruce Frankel (Author)
Finding Meaning in the Second Half of Life: How to Finally, Really Grow UpPaperback – March 16, 2006, by James Hollis (Author)
What are your plans now that your child is off to college?
A few days ago, my friend posted a picture of the most beautifully decorated dorm room I have ever seen. It looked like a catalog ad. Knowing my friend, she placed as much effort and thought into preparing her daughter emotionally for college as she did in helping her decorate her room. She has always been a devoted and thoughtful parent.
Since I’m not busy this year buying comforters and setting up bank accounts, I decided I would compile advice for parents of college students. Having made the transition twice, I consider myself a quasi expert. Below are my musings…
Whether you are looking forward to your child being out of the house, or dreading it, or a combination of the two, there’s a lot of change going on in your world. Be gentle and accepting of yourself.
If you are old enough to be the parent of college student, you are old enough to remember life without cell phones. It was cumbersome to call home when we went to college. We may have used one central phone. We may have paid a fee for every minute we spoke; we may not have had privacy. Unless your child is studying in a remote and foreign land, it will be easy for him or her to call home.
Then again – just because it is easy to call, doesn’t mean it will happen. If you want to be called often, be a friend worthy of calling. That’s right, a friend. If you are supporting your son or daughter, you can choose the level of responsiveness that you expect with that compensation, but it’s a choice and it should be considered, not assumed.
If you are feeling an incredibly strong urge to give advice, call a different friend. Call someone who’s known you as a friend for say, 20-30 years and will feel comfortable ignoring you. Don’t give this new friend/your son/daughter advice. Remember that this is a new friendship and it is fragile.
If your daughter actually solicits your advice, even then consider stifling yourself. I remember asking my mother for advice once in college and she said, “You have always made wonderful decisions and I know you will continue to make good decisions. I believe in you and I will support whatever you decide.” While I admit that I was frustrated not to have an “easy” answer from Mom, I have remembered her answer for decades; 3 plus decades in fact.
What advice have you been given that has lasted 3 or more decades?