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Posts Tagged ‘launching’

Taking Your Stuff [disability, addiction, anxiety, etc.] to College Part 2

Monday, August 17th, 2015

When a child has struggled with issues such as eating disorders, cutting, and substance abuse, it’s important to think ahead before they go off to college. Last week I wrote about the services that are available at most colleges and universities. This week I will discuss ways to maintain clear communication with your student once he or she is away at school and construct a plan ‘B’ if you see they are struggling.

Your child may not like it, but there are ways to maintain clear communication without crossing that boundary into becoming a helicopter parent. In fact, if you have a history of helicopter parenting, you may struggle with these tactics. Here is how I explain the difference to parents: Helicopter parenting implies that you are actively trying to impact outcomes and control your child’s behavior. Instead I want you to observe, and when you discover immanent danger, intervene with natural logical consequences.

How do you observe your adult child away at school and have clear communication without controlling? First, before your child goes away, as parents you must clearly define priorities and expectations. Let your child know coping with his or her struggle or learning difference takes precedence over academics and social life. Encourage your child to suggest strategies to cope with her struggle or difference and then discuss the natural logical consequences for ignoring those healthy strategies. Let your child know you will be observing her purchasing behavior. Form a relationship with your child’s resident advisor or other student advocate on campus let your child know you will be asking them to report any concerns. Finally, let your child know you will be dropping in unannounced on occasion to see how she is doing.

Natural logical consequences are the keys to intervening without controlling. Here is an example: John and Joan are parents and they discover their daughter Jan, who is a recovering alcoholic, has been skipping classes and she stopped going to the student alcohol recovery group. Before Jan went away the family agreed her recovery was the most important priority and Jan even picked out the recovery group on her own. Now, Jan tells Joan that the recovery group is full of people she doesn’t know and she doesn’t really have time for it because her studies are so intense. She tells her mom she’ll go, “if you want me to fail all my classes.” If Joan and John were still helicopter parents they might tell Jan she doesn’t need to go to her recovery group and just focus on her studies. They might lecture Jan or try to guilt or bribe her into going to the recovery group. They might worry that setting limits with Jan would stress her further and even make her start drinking again.

John and Joan are not helicopter parents, however, and they discuss their observations. First they notice their daughter is not taking care of her addiction. Because that could mean life or death for their daughter, they decide to address that first. Second, they acknowledge their sadness that their daughter may not be ready for college. It was Joan’s alma mater and they both must grieve their dream for now. Finally, together they call Jan and remind her that as a family they decided that Jan’s recovery was more important than school and if she can’t do both then she is choosing to come home to finish her education. If Jan chooses to stay away at her current school, they let her know they love her and they honor her decision, but they will not support that decision financially.

Jan may feel like her parents are trying to control her, but in fact, Joan and John are setting a boundary. The boundary is unpleasant for Jan but it is teaching her than Joan and John will not enable her unhealthy coping. It also lets Jan know Joan and John will not lecture or shame her and they will love her no matter what she decides to do.




Taking Your Stuff [disability, addiction, anxiety, etc.] to College

Monday, August 10th, 2015

This month is all about ways you can help your child transition successfully to higher education and independence. My last article discussed helping your child make the transition, and this week I’m going over the services that are available at most colleges and universities. My next article will discuss ways to maintain clear communication with your student once he or she is away at school and construct a plan ‘B’ if you see they are struggling.

Sending a child off to college who has experienced emotional and behavioral struggles can be hard. Issues such as eating disorders, cutting, and substance abuse require the help of outside therapists and medical experts. Similarly, mood and behavior difficulties like depression, anxiety, or ADHD, may require additional educational interventions such as a 504 plan. Educational differences such as dyslexia and dysgraphia may also require special education interventions. By the time a child turns eighteen, most parents have become experts at accessing services that help their child feel better, stay healthy, and succeed in school. The question becomes, then, how do you help your adult child maintain the same level of interest in self-care and success when they go to college?

Depending on your child, you can start by looking at colleges that address his or her need. The University of Iowa offers students with intellectual, cognitive, and learning disabilities access to the REACH program. Through The Learning Center on the West Virginia Wesleyan College campus, students with learning disabilities, attention disorders and other special needs can find a wide range of support options ( If you don’t know where to start, educational consultants can be a tremendous source of information to help your child plug in to the right college or university.

If your child has his or her heart set on a particular university, then be sure to tour services such as the student writing center and campus TRIO programs (federally funded programs on many campuses that offer everything from free tutoring, writing help, to financial help). Your child’s campus will always have an ADA office so include that in your visit when you take your college tour.

Here are some tips from

  • While a high school is required to identify your requirements and provide free appropriate public education to meet them, a post-secondary institution is not required to waive or change academic requirements. However, colleges cannot discriminate on the basis of disability, and must provide the necessary adjustments for you to function academically. This includes housing for students with disabilities that is comparable, accessible and affordable.
  • While disclosure of your disability to a college is voluntary, it is necessary in order to qualify for assistance. You may apply for an adjustment at any time, but it is recommended that you do so early. Initiate contact with a school before the college application process begins, and ask questions. It may take some procedural time for your application to go through, and requirements may vary amongst different colleges.
  • You will also need to provide proof of your disability, so be sure to research what is necessary for different institutions, and start your evaluations before senior year. Neither the state nor your college is responsible for the cost of obtaining documentation of your disability, but your state vocational rehabilitation agency may provide funding.

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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