Tips for a Successful College Sendoff

Sending a child off to college or away from home for the first time can be a nerve-wrecking experience for a parent.  But there are several things you can do to help make the transition smoother.

Don’t Overanalyze

As important as planning for the future can be, over-planning and overanalyzing any situation can cause unnecessary anxiety.  If your child has a fall break as a college freshman, perhaps you don’t need to decide right now if he will come home for it—he hasn’t even left yet!  Many parents set expectations in advance regarding how how often they should communicate via phone or emails. This is another example of something that might be better left unplanned; let communication habits happen naturally.  Obviously there are probably several conversations you’ll want to have with your child before he leaves that involve things like finances, drinking, navigating school resources, etc., but don’t create undue stress by sweating the small stuff.  Leave it to your child to ask for help as the need arises, since self-advocacy skills are a critical part of young-adult development.

Spend Time Teaching Adult Things

Now is the time to teach your child how to do some of the things you may have done for them for years–things that you both might take for granted.   For instance, does your child know how to do their own laundry?  Manage an online bank account?  Write a check?  It may sound silly, but there are probably at least a few “grown-up” things that you need to cover with your child before they leave.  This also makes for quality bonding time.

Strike a Balance Between Dependence and Independence

Let’s face it: even when  young people leave home for college, they are still in developmental limbo between adolescence and adulthood.  It can be helpful to have broad conversations with your college-bound child about your respective hopes and expectations while away.   It’s important to express your parental expectations regarding everything from study habits to dating to drinking as long as you allow for the fact that your role is now primarily one of influence, not control.    Even as you encourage your child to be independent and responsible, reassure him or her that you’re always just a phone call away.

Is Your Adult Child Failing to Launch or a Victim of the Recession?

Normally, it’s fairly easy to spot a typical “failure to launch” case.  It looks something like this: young adult moves home, sleeps incessantly, lounges at the country club and lives off of his parents’ dime. The general picture that describes these cases is that of pure laziness.

These days, however, it can be tricky to tell whether a college grad is failing to launch due to laziness or because he is unable, despite his efforts, to find work and get fairly compensated for it. The truth is, only you, the parent, really knows what your adult child is doing all day and can decipher whether she needs motivation or needs (and deserves) a job offer.

In October of 2011, just 74% of young adults between the ages of 25 and 34 were working.  Even a lot of employed young adults, however, are forced to live with their parents because they don’t make enough money to support themselves.

Others who are living at home and aren’t fortunate enough to find work may appear to outsiders as though they’re mooching off of their parents, but in reality, they could be having really tough luck in this job market.

A survey done by Twentysomething Inc. last May reported that 85% of college graduates are moving back in with their parents and that only 46% of people under the age of 25 are employed.

So think of it this way: if your adult child is living at home and is unemployed, despite the fact that she spends hours a day sending out her resume and interviewing, she is not failing to launch. If she is lazing on the couch eating Ho Hos and watching soap operas all day, she is failing to launch.

What is crucial for parents to keep in mind during difficult times with their young adult children is the root cause of the problem.  Is the cause apathy or is the cause the horrific job market?  If it’s the former, that’s what we’re here for.  If it’s the latter, well, your child is going to need your continued guidance and support.  You may not have ever imagined that your successful college graduate would be back in his twin bed, but believe us, he is most likely making every effort to get out.