The academic year is coming to a close and our collegians have completed a year of studies. Hard to believe after the effort made to visit campuses, fill out applications, and help assume tuition and attendance costs.
Perhaps our child returns and announces that they are just not going back! How do we deal with this surprise?
First, be there. Remain calm. We may have a hard time hiding our feelings (disappointment, disbelief, anger, frustration), but at this moment our children need support from us. Listen. A lot. And when it is our turn to talk, we can try to let them know that we still have faith in them and that there are many ways to be successful. Emphasize their positive qualities and engage in a conversation.
Listen. Listen. Listen…to the reasons they give for not going back and to what the college experience has been like for them.
For however long they intend to live at home, have them work with you to set reasonable expectations and standards for living at home as an adult. We can share what we expect in our household, and set clear goals and structure, since there may have been changes since they went away to school. It is helpful to sit together to engage in discussions on a regular, scheduled basis so everyone has a chance to share what their idea of not returning to college is all about and what may be next.
Finally, we can work together on a plan for self-sufficiency. Are the expectations that we will continue to support an education or a lifestyle? Maybe our child is going to take a “gap” year so part of the conversation can include how they will find work in the interim. Our goal is to help our child (and ourselves) move along with life, especially when expectations shift and plans change.
It’s helpful to keep perspective and lighten up, staying in the moment to be with our children as they figure out their path.