As I again enter into the Orientation season, I am reminded of the power inherent in the core of what I call the “Family Blessing.” The core of this message is focusing on building self-competency for your daughter/son: that she/he can do this, and that she/he is not alone!
Each student has “landmarks” in his journey, often people, who helped guide him to this pivotal point. Each landmark – a family member, friend, neighbor, or mentor — took a sincere interest in helping guide his journey, and as such, each person has a vested interest in his success.
I believe it is essential to convey the Blessing both verbally and in writing. The words of hope, encouragement, and support that make up the Blessing carry power such that they may make the difference between a successful first year and a mediocre one. To be able to both hear and read these words provide students one of the most tangible foundations of trust I have seen in nearly 30 years in higher education.
Blessing letters might include words of…
- excitement for the myriad possibilities that lie ahead
- pride in her accomplishments
- support for him in the path he chooses
- trust in her ability to make wise decisions based in her own self-knowledge
- words born out of spiritual, family, and/or community relationships
In turn, and equally as valuable, are the things I’d encourage you NOT to say; such as,
- comments related to her making YOU proud
- remarks that convey that he is responsible for YOUR feelings
- stories that are, in reality, about YOUR fears
- ways in which you may be expressing a lack of trust: often connected to the word “Should” (I’ll devote a future post to talk about this)
Here is a portion of an email from a Dad in Missouri, speaking to his own experience of conveying the Blessing:
“…one thing that stuck with me from your presentation was to give our son our “blessing.” That never dawned on me, and I wish I had known of its importance when his older sister went off to college. Before we left after move-in weekend, we stopped for a parting prayer. But before that prayer I was able to speak to our (mom’s & dad’s) belief that he would be a success, had our full unqualified support, and that he had our full blessing. A spontaneous group hug and tears quickly followed. While I know I’m preaching to the choir, you can’t emphasize this enough to new college parents. I had no idea how important it was for him until that day. And as you pointed out, the choice of words is essential.”
p.s. If you are willing to share a copy of your Blessing letter &/or your student’s response, I’d be glad to hear from you! Please include your name & home state – thanks!