What Grandparents Can Do

My granddaughter is like the kids from Lake Woebegone.  You know, that’s where “the women are strong, the men are good looking and all the kids are above average.”

At the tender age of 9 Kasey is already programed to tell anyone who will listen that she plans to attend Stanford University. Does this sound like your grandchild?  Though you may be happy to see that they have a high level of personal ambition, if you are like the rest of us you probably don’t know what else to do beyond offering an accepting nod of approval, a smile and perhaps of some version of “atta-girl” as encouragement.

I have never met a grandparent who wasn’t   thoroughly convinced that their grandchild was anything less than exceptionally talented, bright and at the very least above average.

Researchers caution us about unrealistic expectations in the face of mediocre accomplishments.  “Kids,” they say,  “shouldn’t be praised for just swinging the bat hard if their efforts result in a strike out.”    In my measured unscientific opinion, that’s “hogwash.”

Kasey may or may not gain admission to Stanford.  But she will get our enthusiastic encouragement to accomplish as much as she can.  And we intend to start now by helping her connect the dots to whatever career she eventually chooses.

Parents want their kids to be ambitious and get ahead in life.  That’s why 94% of parents with kids 17 and younger say they intend to send their kids to college.  According the National Association of Colleges and employers (NACE), over 80% of high school seniors report wanting to attend college for the same reason.  The problem is that senior faculty and administrators appear to have a different agenda as the kids arrive on campus.  There is no widespread agreement among faculty about what students should be learning, or to what extent the university should prepare them for success in the workforce.

No wonder students get confused about why they are on campus and what impact it will have on their careers.

Here’s a tip perfectly suited for grandparents.  The next time your grandchild tells you they plan to attend college, start a conversation with them about why.  If they are at all like my granddaughter, the question will initially confuse and confound.   Don’t be surprised or worried if they don’t know.  But also, don’t push it.  The path from backpack to briefcase cannot be traveled in a single afternoon of conversation.

But the question will initiate a thought process that eventually links a college education to many wonderful things, including a successful career.

Here is how it works.  When kids begin to think about the “why” of going to college, they are better positioned to turn attention to the linkages between a degree and possible careers.  It’s a way of thinking that opens doors and helps them understand what they will need to accomplish while in college to make a good career happen.

Until a few years ago a well paying career seemed as if it were an inevitable consequence of going to college.  We now know better.  Recent graduates are having difficulty gaining traction in the job market and nearly 50% of Americans with college degrees have jobs that do not require them.

By the time your student is ready for college you will have done them a big favor if they understand why they are attending and what they need to do to accomplish their goals.  Students who know where they are headed do better than those who do not.

This is also a conversation you can have that is not overly meddlesome—an important consideration for grandparents everywhere.

This and more are covered in my recently published book, The Path From Backpack to Briefcase: A Parents Guide.  Meanwhile, this is something any grandparent can reasonably undertake.

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