What Traits Will Your Graduate Bring Into The World?


In this season of graduations, parents are busy thinking of whatever is needed to prepare their graduate as they venture out on their own. Even as we go over the finer points of laundry and celebrate their achievements, we’ll also be sending forth young adults with character qualities that we’ve helped to shape as parents.

So much of what we learned from our own parents was through their examples. I’m sure my love of nature comes from my dad. My mother was an incredibly generous person, and I work at having that same generous spirit.

As important as these positive character qualities are to me, how do we, as parents, try to instill them in our own children? What is your graduate bringing into the world with them?

A family posing for a photo including mom, dad, two younger girls and a young woman in a cap and gown, celebrating the graduate

We learn by example

To understand and enjoy the natural world you need to pay attention. Starting as an infant, I’d take our son outside and point out the sounds, the changes through seasons, and any critter that we’d encounter. We’d take time to slow down and notice the world around us.

My dad did the same thing. I remember him holding tiny garter snakes to show us the beautiful slithering creatures. We’d watch thunderstorms roll in and the worms that flowed onto the road after the rain passed.

Generosity also requires paying attention, and my mom excelled at it. She sent cards for every occasion, brought food or drove to help those who were ill, and was always there with afternoon coffee for a friend who just needed to talk.

Neighbors, friends and family were always in and out of the house I grew up in and in our Seacoast home as well.

It can be the small things, too.

While generosity can mean grand gestures or large checks, a generous spirit simply means thinking of other people.

Let someone go in front of you in the grocery store line. Don’t leave clothes in dressing rooms. Tip well, say thank you, volunteer your time. My mom modeled these kinds of behaviors for us as we did for our own kids.

My dad always had a garden with most vegetables grown from seed. While I don’t love gardening, I appreciated then and now the wonder of watching something so tiny transform into something we could eat! Both of our kids admired my dad’s garden and had a better understanding of the lifecycle of plants.

There’s no scorecard for parenting, thankfully!

None of us are perfect parents – I’m not and my parents weren’t, but we all worked at it. And our kids are always watching us. How we act when faced with adversity and frustration is another piece of the puzzle in their character development. At best, we are all learning and improving for our entire lives.

We learn that we can still love nature when the garter snake bites (like one did to my dad) or we’re stung by a hornet. We learn we can still be generous even if people don’t seem to notice.

Once your kids are out on their own it is easier to see how they’ve internalized it all.

Both our son and daughter live in urban areas now but often talk about and send photos of the local wildlife. Our daughter hosts and introduced Thanksgiving to her Portuguese in-laws and friends. She is also the default tour guide for anyone we know traveling there.

We’ve watched our son patiently and respectfully navigate his way through busy cities, very different from where he grew up on the Seacoast. He even hung a bird feeder outside his city dorm room in college.

Best wishes to all the graduates and their parents!

Along with report cards, awards and trophies be sure to take some time to let your child know what character qualities of theirs that you admire. Our world can never have enough kind, generous, thoughtful people.

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Hello, I’m Nancy! I’m a New Hampshire native and have enjoyed living in the Seacoast with my husband, stepdaughter and son for quite a while, decades in fact! I’ve been a software engineer, home stager, a school and community volunteer and a stay-at-home mom. I wrote a weekly running column for Seacoast Sunday/Foster’s Daily Democrat/Portsmouth Herald for many years and reported on road races including my dream assignments at the Boston Marathon. Not surprisingly, I’m an avid runner and am happiest outdoors! Nothing beats the sweet exhaustion after a long and active day spent outside in every season. Our nest is now generally empty with both kids navigating their own adult lives and my husband and I are enjoying our time together and with our two great cats. Motherhood (and life) is ever-changing and I’m adjusting to this new stage and reflecting on how lucky we’ve been.