The statistics are startling. In 2009, 80% of college graduates moved back in with their parents according to CNN Money. That’s just because the economy was so bad then you say.
Market Watch reported that a Pew Research Center Analysis determined that in 2012, 36% of adults ages 18-36 live at home with their parents. That’s more than 1/3 of young adults in America not out on their own. If you consider someone over 30 a “young adult”. And Tim Elmore reports in his new book, 12 Huge Mistakes Parents Can Avoid, that in 2013 85% of college students planned to move back home after graduating.
Many parents ask me what they can do to help their student be successful in college. I think the better question is how can we help college prepare them to be successful as independent adults?
In order to enable flight into the real world instead of a retreat back home, there are three things we need to focus on:
- Help them find a career path where their skills and talents are needed in the market place. Not having a job or not having a job that pays enough to afford to live independently causes students to move home. If we help them determine career direction and set them up to pursue that direction through their college experiences, then they will be more likely to find quality employment.
- Make them work. With the above being said, just having an educational credential that is linked to a marketable field is not enough. I recently had a parent of a college graduate call us to ask for help in getting his son’s resume in order to help him to pursue a job. He had graduated from a top program in a marketable field, but had no job prospects. He had moved back home with his parents. When we got an initial draft of his resume from him, it was obvious why he wasn’t having any luck. At age 24, the kid hadn’t worked a day in his life. On top of that, he didn’t have much involvement in student or leadership activities while in college. We couldn’t make up experience for him to put on his resume. Simply pursuing an internship in the field of his major at the very least (where I know for a fact there are firms all over the campus he attended clamoring for interns and full-time employees) would have given him opportunities in his field and potential job prospects post graduation, not to mention the opportunity to learn skills and garner experience that can’t be developed only in the classroom. As Dr. Elmore says in his book, “Work shapes us. Being productive is innately good for human beings.” In addition, working and being responsible for some of their own finances teaches valuable skills and can help with one of the reasons students can’t afford to go out on their own- student loan debt.
- Don’t do it for them. The kid that couldn’t get a job in his field wasn’t calling me about his resume. His dad was. After talking to his dad two or three times to try to arrange things, I finally asked him to tell his son to call me directly. If his son had been given responsibility for his future without the crutch of his parents couch and his dad calling to get his resume drafted and pay for it, he might be out on his own now. It’s just an example of a larger pattern in promoting lack of motivation and drive by doing and fixing everything for our kids. We enable a can’t do instead a can-do attitude.
I say this just as much as reminder to myself as a parent than anything. As I listen to my three-and-a-half year old scream that he can’t put his shoes and socks on by himself when I know his is fully capable of doing it on his own my mind flashes to him as a 30 year old at home on our couch. I calmly tell him he can do it himself and walk away, hoping this doesn’t make us late. I haven’t always chosen this route.
If your student is headed to college, who is filling out their college applications, writing their scholarship essays, asking for recommendations from teachers and scheduling college visits? If we are doing all this for them as 17 and 18 year olds, what makes us think they are going to take ownership of things when they graduate from college (if they are even able to graduate by their own efforts) at 22 or 23?
It’s sometimes easier said than done, but if we all want our kids to be successful in life, not just in college, we need to remind ourselves to think long term by helping them:
- Discover who they are and help them match that to a need in the marketplace
- Make them work to help them learn the value of being productive early on
- Provide them with opportunities to do things on their own, without us constantly rescuing. This includes allowing them to fail when they don’t take responsibility for doing things on their own.
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What are you doing today to prepare your child for tomorrow?