Seminar Date: April 17, 2013

The parent seminar topic at Of One Mind this Wednesday night was “Home Again- What to do When Your Young Adult Drops out of College.”    The presentation was given by Richard B. Cohen, LMFT, MAC, CCBT, CDVC, who said it’s important to first understand why someone drops out of school.  Did they have difficulty finding the discipline to self structure themselves?   Were their courses not engaging?   Do they have a learning disability?  Were too much drugs or alcohol involved?  Richard said we must first identify the problem before attempting to solve it.

Richard then stressed the importance of teaching young adults to do things for themselves.  If a parent does everything for their child for 18 years, how is the now adult child supposed to know how to take care of themselves?   If you’ve never done your own laundry, how would you know how to?  Confidence comes from experience.    The good news: is it’s not too late to change.  If your young adult has come back to live at home, Richard said this can be an opportunity to help improve their behavior.

Richard suggested that parents make new rules for living at home.   Decide what is important to you.  Honesty and respect should be a requirement for living in your home.  If your young adult isn’t in school, getting a job can be a requirement to live there.   Do they pay rent?  Make their bed everyday?  Take out the garbage?  Do the dishes?   What you don’t want is someone living in your home that stays up all night, sleeps all day and disrespects you.   If you allow this behavior as a parent, you are enabling your child to dysfunction.   Richard asked the parents with young adults living at home: “How are your children going to take care of themselves when you are gone?”

Richard said it’s important that parents be able to verify information.  Richard said he’s shocked that some young adults do not show their grades to their parents.   If you are paying for your kid’s school, you absolutely get to see their grades.  It’s your investment.   If your young adult is looking for a job, ask them to bring back business cards from the places they’ve applied to.   Richard said that once your kids know you are checking, they give more compliance.

Richard said that young adults who blame others for their failing haven’t yet learned to take responsibility for themselves.  For kids who have a hard time taking responsibility, Richard suggested giving them experiences where they get to be responsible.  Send them on a task, have them come back, then talk about it.   Help your child grow up by teaching them readiness responsibility to self manage.    Parents who take on too much responsibility for their kids end up diminishing their child’s self esteem. It’s okay to help your child but you don’t want to enable.  Enabling can be destructive.  Helping them teaches them to do something.    To paraphrase the old saying: Far better to teach your child to fish so they can eat forever, rather than give them a fish so they can eat today.

If your young adult is looking to go back to school, Richard recommended making them a financial partner in the experience.   The kids who do best in college are the ones who help pay their own tuition either by working or taking out a loan.  It makes sense.  This way they have an investment in themselves.  It’s not “someone else’s money.”

Some parents at the seminar told Richard they feel powerless and that their young adults don’t listen to them anymore.  Richard asked “Where’s your child going to sleep tonight?”  If they are sleeping in your home, they need to listen to you.  Richard’s suggestion was to “Change your response and your child with react differently.”  Richard reminded parents that they still have a lot of power if the young adult is at home and the parent is providing free rent, food or transportation.   Parents need to let their young adult know exactly what behavior is expected from them in order to receive any of these benefits.  Don’t listen to what your young adult tells you.  Just look at what they do.

Create accountability by making it clear that these are the rules for living in your home.   If your young adult says they aren’t going to follow your rules because they are over 18, they are right.  They don’t have to.   They also don’t have to live in your home anymore.   They can go make it on their own.