All good parents want their children to succeed, but some kids do better than others after leaving the nest. Paula Wallace, president and founder of the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD), has some thoughts on the topic. With locations in Savannah and Atlanta in Georgia, Hong Kong, and Lacoste, France, she has spent four decades working with young people from around the world. Here's her advice on what parents can do to help their kids succeed in life.
1. Teach them to be resilient.
Are your children practicing the ability to adapt to change, pivot quickly and otherwise stand strong in the face of adversity? The most accomplished young adults can deal with the inevitable curve balls life will throw them. Wallace suggests helping kids think in terms of improvisational comedy, which involves the rule of "yes, and," a rule she says was integral to her career as an educator and when founding SCAD. Essentially, it's adapting to any situation or dialogue with agreement and then adding something to the story. "When they want to quit ballet or the soccer team, do you compel them to stay with it through to the end? Do you ask them to do difficult chores around the house?" she says. "Grit starts at home."
2. Help them get comfortable with risk.
In 1977 Wallace was teaching elementary school when she decided to resign from her secure post and start a college for the arts. Instead of wondering what a 20-something schoolteacher knows about starting a university, her parents invested a small portion of their savings into her idea. Wallace remembers that vote of confidence as an early reminder that even a little bit of help can bring a child's dream to life. "If your children show interest in a strange hobby--even something that sounds a little odd to you--surprise them and jump in with both feet," she says. "Or if your children express a desire to do something daring and unexpected... step aside and let them go for it. Your faith in them will last a lifetime."
3. Push them to engage people outside their immediate social group.
Wallace says the most promising college students are those who can engage professors, university guests, and prospective employers with confidence and maturity. She says parents should be helping children find social groups outside high school, including relationships with older and younger people. Ideas for where to foster these connections include church, community theater and volunteering.
4. Practice regular visiting with family, even if it's via FaceTime.
The happiest students are those who demonstrate an appreciation for family through consistent communication. Do you find ways to have real conversations with your kids every day? Are you prioritizing the practice of visiting grandparents and listening to their stories? "When I was in college, I called my parents every Sunday afternoon at the same time," she says. "[It] kept me grounded."