When your graduate doesn’t know the next step


Leah with acoustic, German-made violin

Leah with acoustic, German-made violin

Yesterday our granddaughter Violet asked our youngest daughter Leah if she has homework.

Leah said no (never one to expound on things!), and I explained that she had graduated and doesn’t have homework any more.

Violet said, “You’re lucky!”

She then asked if Leah was going to college and Leah said she didn’t know yet. 

Leah has been saying, “I don’t know,” since she graduated in 2013.

I am  like a racehorse rarin’ to go, running out of the starting gate. I’m very much a fast action taker (married to Ray who is like a turtle). I have big dreams and definite goals. So for me to have a child who seems, for lack of a better word, aimless, drives me up the wall!

What are parents to do when their child doesn’t know the next step after graduation?

Ray doesn’t think we should push Leah hard about making a decision about college, vocational school, or even working a part-time or full-time job! Leah is intelligent, spiritually gifted, and as our youngest and only child at home now, I don’t think he’s in any hurry to have her move out of our house any time soon (neither am I!). 


Leah at The Nutcracker Ballet
with our friends

But I want her to take some kind of step and make a decision to do something!

Here’s some tips for you that I’m using on myself:

  • Pray. This is the best thing you can do. For control freaks like me, you really have to just surrender the situation to God. I can’t physically make Leah enroll in online college classes or fill out job applications. I can’t force her to make some kind of decision for her life, barring kicking her out of the house, which I won’t do. The Bible says in Ephesians 6:18 NLV, “You must pray at all times as the Holy Spirit leads you to pray. Pray for the things that are needed. You must watch and keep on praying. Remember to pray for all Christians.” God hears your prayers as a parent. He loves and knows your child more than you do. He will lead and guide her/him. He has a good plan for your child’s life. (Jeremiah 29:11)
  • Encourage. Let’s face it, criticism, nagging, and threatening don’t work very well with teens or young adults (or anyone!). Encourage your graduate about her/his spiritual gifts, talents, skills, and strengths. Call them to attention. Let your not-in-a-hurry-to-decide graduate know that you believe in her/him. Say, “You have so much to offer the world. You’re such a great artist.” (singer, musician, writer, or whatever he or she is good at). That she (or he) can do anything and nothing is impossible with God. Share about interesting looking college or community classes or job opportunities.
  • Motivate. Leah takes Suzuki method violin lessons from her wonderful instructor, Emily. She was inspired to learn how to play the violin by Lindsey Sterling playing Crystallize. Lindsey is just flat out anointed by God playing this song. For Christmas, we bought Leah a beautiful, acoustic violin (expensive!) that was made in Germany. She practices playing her violin every day and is self-motivated to go to her lessons each week. You may need to use whatever is important to your graduate to light a fire under him/her. If she wants to go to violin or piano lessons, she can get a part-time job to help pay for them. If she/he wants to use the car, she/he can work to put gas in the tank or help pay for the car insurance. If she/he wants to eat….just kidding. Find something that matters to your graduate to motivate her/him to work or to pursue further education or training. What really matters to her/him the most? What’s important? 

    Leah with her violin instructor Emily

    Leah with her violin instructor Emily

  • Educate. Leah was always homeschooled, and is now graduated, but I see no reason for the learning to stop. No matter if your child was homeschooled, went to public school or private school, and how long it’s been since graduation, you can still cultivate a learning atmosphere in your home. Buy your graduate her or his favorite fiction books and other books they can read to continue learning. Go to art museums. Travel new places. Do fun things together that are also educational. I always have a stack of books in our front entry room that I’m reading, I regularly attend webinars, telecalls, and other trainings, and I enjoy traveling to learn new things, try new foods, and meet new people. I believe that learning should be life-long; every day affords an opportunity to learn and expand your mind. Encourage your graduate to continue learning new things every day. 
  • Influence. Hang around successful people who can impress and influence your graduate, and perhaps even speak into her/his life. Jim Rohn said, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” Who is your graduate friends with? Who does she/he hang around? What does he/she read, what music does he/she listen to, what YouTube videos does he/she watch, where is he/she surfing online, what are his/her hobbies, interests, and activities? I study successful women entrepreneurs (speakers, writers, coaches, women with online businesses) because that is my career now, and I desire to be extremely successful. Your big dreams and achievements and others’ can impact and inspire your graduate. At the very least, your career may show your graduate that is what she/he does NOT want to do! (Leah, being very shy, has no desire whatsoever to be a women’s conference speaker like me…and she dislikes writing as well, so we’ve ruled that out for her life!) I encourage her to hone her skills on the violin and in art on her graphic art tablet (she’s an amazing artist). For Christmas, we bought her a mandolin, which she is now teaching herself to play. She also plays around on the guitar. Music is Leah’s “language.” I encourage her to listen to good musicians and study great artists, as these are the areas she may pursue later as her career/ministry.

Applying these tips may help your graduate to take at least one small step. Leah finally applied for a couple of jobs and had her first job interview. She was really nervous about this, and she didn’t get the job, but she did it. It was a major milestone for her since she is so shy. One step leads to another.

Heather, me & Leah, 2014

Heather, me & Leah

You can read 10 Powerful and Inspiring Graduate Speeches at Personal Excellence (Be Your Best Self, Live Your Best Life) by clicking here. I liked what Bono said in his 2004 graduate speech:

“For four years you’ve been buying, trading, and selling everything you’ve got in this marketplace of ideas. The intellectual hustle. Your pockets are full, even if your parents’ are empty, and — and now you’ve got to figure out what to spend it on. … So my question I suppose is: What’s the big idea? What’s your big idea? What are you willing to spend your moral capital, your intellectual capital, your cash, your sweat equity in pursuing outside […]?” – Bono

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