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18 Things We Can Now Tell Our Kids

And why our grown-up children would be wise to pay attention to these words of wisdom

En español | Although it's a cliché to say that Jewish moms are famous for advice, best-selling novelist Erica Jong (famous as a best-selling novelist but also the mother of a grown daughter) says, "Advice is what you ask for when you already know the answer and don't want to face it."

True, true — all too true. Our kids are long past refusing to walk with us through the mall and we're long past telling them that all that long hair is covering up their pretty faces.

Photo by Cira Moro/laif/Redux

At 50, you can give advice that your grown-up children may be ready to hear.

Some advice is timeless.

It's also guileless, guiltless … and priceless.

We've reached the stage where we have the presence in life to give it. And if our grown and growing kids are wise, they've reached the stage where they can hear it.

1. Don't be a jerk. The one time you are will be the time everyone remembers.

2. A great handshake and an honest smile are free, and shine as brightly as any résumé.

3. Most of the time, people are doing the best that they can. Try to believe it.

4. Use sunscreen, but not just on your face. Remember the back of your neck and, above all, your hands!

5. There are no people so far beneath you that you can't learn something from them, or so far above you that you need permission to communicate with them.


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6. Don't wait for someone else to hold you to account. Do it yourself.

7. Respect others' beliefs, but don't back off on your own.

8. Your gut is always, always right. Listen quietly to your intuition, and you'll see that you already know everything you need to know.

9. Take care of your feet. Buy the best shoes you can, if not the most expensive. Go for pedicures, as a couple. Oldie moldies won't take you far.

10. Follow your passion. You'll never "work" a day in your life.

11. Make empathy the default response.

12. Even if someone's mad at you, it does not mean you've done something wrong.

13. You'll never regret eating blueberries or working up a sweat.

14. Strive to keep half your promises.

15. Treat yourself well. Other people will, too.

16. When you say something you think is smart, don't sniff. It telegraphs conceit.

17. Nothing ever got worse from talking about it. Just pick the right person to talk to.

18. The smaller the thing you can find to be grateful for — from good coffee to soft socks — the happier you will be.

You may also like: Jacquelyn Mitchard on starting over at 50. >>

Jacquelyn Mitchard, the best-selling author of 20 books, lives near Madison, Wis., with her family. Her most recent novel, Second Nature: A Love Story, was published in September by Random House.