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Archive for July, 2015

Launching Into College and Beyond

Tuesday, July 28th, 2015

From colonial times until about 1940, young adults usually lived with parents or relatives. In fact, it was common to send unmarried children to relatives to become servants or apprentices. In some American colonies it was actually illegal for unmarried people to live alone. From 1940 to the present, things started to change. Unmarried children began living on their own and in the 1960s the term “Independent Life Stage” was coined. Expecting independence after age 18 has become the norm in the United States. In our practice we see both ends of the spectrum: young adults who are not ready for independence, and parents who are not ready to give up their jobs.

Parents with older teens resisting independence may worry their child is never going to mature enough to self-care and leave home. The fact is, many young people are not well suited to independence right after high school and are possibly more vulnerable to anxiety and depression. Even now, in the second decade of the new millennium, parents are worried when an adult child ‘boomerangs’ home again from university even though the percentage of unmarrieds living at home is nowhere near the rate pre-1940. Launching a young adult with a history of anxiety, depression, or addiction may take more time, and require more attention to establishing support and counseling services.

On the other end of the spectrum, parents resisting their child’s independence may actually be resisting the launching process. A recent Washington Post article described how helicopter parents’ “Failure to Launch” is ruining their college students. Launching begins when the first child leaves and ends when the last child leaves. During this time marriages experience greater stress due to challenges developing adult relationships with children, refocusing the on the marriage, accepting new family members, and declining health and energy levels.

So how can you help you and your young adult prepare for this inevitable life transition? First, talk with them about their fears. Young adults wonder, “How do we become adults?” “What am I really afraid of?” What are the reasonable risks of growing up?” “(Mom and Dad), What was your own launching period like?” Next, realize that colleges do NOT prepare seniors for the transition from college to independence. Six months before graduation provide your own orientation and explain things like credit card debt. Finally, if your child needs to stay home a bit longer, discuss expectations on both sides. Resist the urge to do everything for your adult child at home and create a clear exit plan for leaving that you review every three months.

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