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Parenting a Young Adult
Berkeley Parents Network > Advice > Teens, Preteens, & Young Adults > Parenting a Young Adult
Our very articulate, cute and charming 20 y/o dd has just withdrawn from all her junior college classes rather than get Ds. This is not the first time it's happened. Yes, there are reasons: multiple documented learning disabilities (she qualifies for support), no peer support (friends have gone away to college), no specific goal or certificate in mind and trouble doing the work she considers difficult and boring. She has been working part-time since high school and has a strong work ethic and gets to work on time. She has no hobbies or passions.
Things we have considered: only paying for one class per semester or making her pay, therapy for her situational depression, the military (decided against), meeting with her teachers to find out what's up (she refused), standarized interests testing like the COPP etc., cell phone sales job.
Were any of you or have you parented someone who doesn't fit the mainstream academic path? What has been your overall strategy? Do you have a planned move-out-of-parents-house date? Looking back, what was the turning point? Anything we should consider? Concerned mom
When he turned 25, something clicked - maybe brain maturity? or he was tired of years of discouraging, boring jobs? The recession hit and he couldn't find work, couldn't pay rent, had to move back home and listen to me worry and nag. He convinced me to give him one more chance. I reluctantly agreed to pay his rent on a shared subsidized apartment in Berkeley if he would maintain a B average at Berkeley City College. He did all the paperwork for his housing, and for financial aid. He started out taking only one class a semester and gradually built up to a full load. Now, two years later, he has made an A in every single class he's taken, including challenging math and science classes. He is very fired up by his classes, and works very hard. In Fall he will apply to UCB and UCSC as a transfer student. I can see him going on to grad school just because he is so excited by learning. I'm so proud of him!
If you had told me 5 or 10 years ago that things would work out like this, I would not have believed you. There were so many disappointments with this kid, starting in middle school. He's just a late bloomer, I guess. I am thankful that I was able to help him when he finally bloomed, because it has been such a joy to see that.
Good for your daughter that she has a job. Maybe it would be a good thing for her to work for a while and gain independence and responsibility and better insight into where she wants to go as a young adult. If you can just hold on for a little while and be as supportive as possible you might get your reward down the road! local mom
Our young adult son is STUCK. Living at home, no job or job skills, attending community college. And, as you can imagine, he feels terrible about himself. We've gone the counseling route (many times) but what he really needs is a mentor to help him 'launch'. Any recommendations? Mom
If your son is attending community college classes, he shouldn't be feeling bad about himself. He's in college! Many young adults have trouble finding work. He just needs to keep looking.
I'm not trying to minimize things; maybe you kept your post short so we're not getting the whole picture. But I was left with the feeling that everyone's shaking their head about his failings when he's attending school. I worry about a shame spiral here.
My husband didn't go to college until 24, and then spent 10 years working his way through community college and a CSU. Now he's getting his PhD at a UC. There are many paths. If your son is struggling, I salute you looking for help. But is he really struggling?
I'm the mother of a 21 year old boy. He is taking a '' break'' from college after not being able to decide on a major. He move back with us, his dad and I, and is seeing a therapist. He is looking for a job but it a very slowly and inefficient way ( my perception not his). We have given him all the support possible but are not willing to pay for his easy life...My son insists it is a process,he is trying, etc but what I see is a wonderful, charming and smart young man waisting his life.
He watches the sports channel, listen to podcasts and smokes pot I'm sure very often. No girlfriend, no exercise... My Mother insists, yes even and that age you can force a son to change his life, go back to school, etc. I wish I could force him to go away, to travel to leave this environment but how do I do that? Any suggestions? All parents out there know how much energy and sacrifice we invest in this kids, it is painful to see all that work did not take us anywhere... A sad Mom
I am joking, kind of, but trust me--if he realizes he can't act like a kid any more because you won't allow this, he'll either move or find a job or go back to school, or a combination of the above.
In the meantime, when I became irritated with my 20-something daughter recently, I started reading up on the subject of adult children to get some perspective. Some helpful books (in this case from Berkeley Public Library):
''When Our Grown Kids Disappoint Us,'' Jane Adams. A quick, glib read that resembles an
extended magazine article, so more of an overview of the subject than a detailed
analysis. Still, good for reassurance and encouragement, the way the first session with a
support group might be.
''How to Raise Your (Adult) Children'' by Gail Parent & Susan Ende is much more fun and very readable. It's like Dear Abby, with letters from despairing parents about money, living arrangements, work, family rituals, marriage, divorce, etc. Nice, specific situations, and each letter receives two answers: Parent gets to be funny and pragmatic, while Ende is the therapeutic voice.
''Walking on Eggshells: Navigating the Delicate Relationship Between Adult Children and Their Parent'' by Jane Isay I haven't started yet, but it looks informative.
Good luck. He'll relaunch himself, but it will happen much faster if you give him the shove he needs, and perhaps wants. Melanie
Last year, our 20-year-old daughter left a good east college after one semester - not a good fit. She returned home, then did a 2 month stint working on organic farms in the south, took doula training to volunteer as a birth coach and found a full-time job in local health food store. All good EXCEPT for the fact that although she says she will return to school - she knows it's a likely professional dead-end without at least a BA - she's doing nothing toward that end. She loved the birth-coaching training and has sounded very enthusiastic about volunteering at SF General, but keeps dropping the ball to make it happen. In vulnerable moments she'll tell me she feels paralyzed and needs to make a change in her life, she wants to move out but then she'll just be working to pay rent which seems like it's own kind of dead-end. We just visited two college in Pacific Northwest, neither of which she loved. I don't know how to help guide her. She's such a delightful person, it's hard to see her stalled. Suggestions welcomed.
I am hoping that someone in this community can give us some advice. We need our 21-year old out of our home. She is very immature for her age, but her behavior is such that we feel inadequate to help her here anymore and may even be enabling her. In other words, we need her gone. Yes she is in therapy and we are covering this with the therapist. What we are looking for, so that we feel she is safe and cared for, is something like the old-fashioned boarding house, with house rules, curfews, meals, in other words structure and accountability. Does such a thing exist anywhere? We are also looking for residential programs that are not primarily for substance abuse as we feel she could definitely benefit from more intensive therapy. Maybe there is even someone who lets out a room and would keep an eye out? Any ideas would be helpful.
Adult children who live at home and are dependent on their parent(s) are likely to then resent them for that dependency. The longer that dynamic persists, the more the parent-child relationship may be damaged. Good luck!
Dear Fellow Parents, Now that my kids are off at college - I'm wondering what to expect in the way of birthday acknowledgements. I spend a good amount of time asking my children what they want or need and make a point to send them a package. On my birthday they each called me, but I didn't receive anything. What's appropriate? I don't ask for much, and nothing expensive, but it feels unequal. Something personal is most appreciated (I also did see them in person following my birthday so it's not just long distance). I'm wondering how to bring up a subject such as this, without it being a guilt trip. Their dad's birthday falls around the holidays when they are home, so he tends to get more acknowledgement. I'm interested in your thoughts and experience. Thanks - Uncertain Mom
My 20-year-old daughter is at university overseas. This is her last year; she is writing a B.Sc. ''dissertation'' (i.e., not as demanding as a graduate dissertation), working part-time, living with her boyfriend of one year, considering careers, looking for full-time work down the road. We pay her tuition and rent, and she pays the rest. She is feeling stressed out right now, but is pretty well organized, ambitious, concerned about the economy, and wants some material security. She speaks of marrying her young man and starting a family in her mid-20s. And, of course, this is absolutely what she wants, and her desires will never change, and she KNOWS this! (Kind of like she did at age 16, although admittedly she is more objective about herself these days.)
She and I talk about once a week, e-mail, etc., and see each other a couple of times a year. When she wants advice or an opinion of her resume or whatever, she asks me and makes notes. Advice I offer on my own might be ignored, criticized, or listened to.
I don't think my daughter is immature for her age and her intelligence; probably pretty mature, although this is hard for me to judge. At this point, though, I'd like some guidance about how to be a good/better parent-consultant, as Mike Riera would say. Can anyone recommend a book, website, or support group (East Bay preferred) for parents of people in this phase of adulthood? Anonymous
So J. turns 20 in a few weeks. He dropped out of high school in Orinda his Jr. year, got a GED and is not interested in college. He's working occasionally for a construction company hauling stuff and assisting carpenters.
In the past few weeks there has been no work, so he sits on the couch all day, playing video games, watching movies, waiting for the next free meal. We have asked him to pay rent (a small amount) which he rufuses to do. He is beligerent and feeling entitled to do nothing. His step siblings, now a sophmore and Junior in high school are very busy, taking all core classes, getting great grades, involved in sports and music and slated for University. It is distracting to have a sibling that has no responsibilities and frankly it's not a great environment.
I understand this is a part of the growing. What can we do? R.
I'm sorry this is happening. I think it's more common then you would think. I know at least two other families with ''grown-up'' sons who are having a harder time of it and it took them a longer time to get out on their own or to find themselves. They also were not fabulous students in school. It will happen eventually. Making clear rules and expectations, might be the way to go. anon
1. Your son sounds like he might be depressed. Having his younger sibs around doing so well is probably pretty discouraging too.
2. I paid for career counseling for one of my sons. He was in an entrenched depressed state too. He went to Toni Littlestone in Albany. It was a GREAT experience, he really liked her, and he identified a career that he is interested in and would be good at, that he is now working toward.
3. This same son and I were sometimes having angry fights, and I told him he had to either move out (he could live with his dad) or go to therapy with me. He went to therapy with me and it was really beneficial even though we only went twice (to a couples' counselor who specializes in improving couple communications!)
4. I told my HS drop-out son that if he is living at home, he must be either in school or working. He had enrolled twice in community colleges and dropped out. He was unable to find a job for eight months. I heard an NPR show about the Mexican government paying kids to stay in school so I made that offer to him. He suggested instead that I pay for martial arts classes in exchange for his going to school, so he's back in school now, though taking only 2 classes, but is applying himself.
5. I don't give them allowance but I do pay for their cell phones and their medical insurance. The fact that they don't have any spending money is a big incentive for them to have and keep jobs.
6. We have a rule that the living room is for the whole family, and the TV can't be on in there during the day. My college grad son used to watch ESPN all day. It took a lot of yelling and bad vibes to get this rule established but now it is, we don't fight about it anymore.
7. My sons do household chores that REALLY contribute: all the garbage and recycling, daily kitchen cleanup, driving our younger child's carpool & taking him for haircuts, new shoes, to dr. appts, etc., each cooking dinner one night a week, doing the grocery shopping. Life is actually a lot easier for me with them living here. I know they want to have their own places but I will be sorry to see them go.
It is very hard to parent a 20-year-old and I wish you all the best.!
Go get family therapy - I would suggest a MSW therapist.
What I can say from reading your note:
This has been going on for a long time - at least since high school if not before.
Your couch son will not improve by being compared to his achievement oriented step siblings. If that were going to kick in it would have happened by now.
You son may have a variety of difficulties ranging from learning disabilities to depression to just really bad habits. The family social dynamic may not approve but so far it has accommodated what is currently going on. Having an outside trained therapist might give you some guidance in exploring further diagnoses and ultimately creating a plan for your son to lead an independent life. I have known high achievers and low achievers who never left that living room couch. Since your son is not self motivated it will take some very consistent steps to institute constructive change. If you simply put him on the street, it does not sound like he is prepared for life. Wishing You Courage to Seek Professional Help
She gave him 60 days notice to find a full time job and a place to rent. He was living in Marin and working part time. He found a house to share with 3 other guys, and asked for more hours at work.
A friend recently did something similar with her 20 y.o. son (a high school classmate of my daughter). He wasn't even working. He stayed with a friend until they got sick of him, then his aunt, and they were ready to kick him out. Only then did he get a job at Walmart, and rent a room from some people who were sharing a house. Right now he's pretty angry at his mom, but I'm sure as he matures, he'll realize it was the best thing for him.
The other thing you can do is to see if he is interested in some kind of post-high school vocational training program, like they have at Wyotech or Everest. HVAC is highly needed and a big paycheck too.
BTW, all this comes from experience. Last Sept. my 20 y.o. moved to Sacto., got a job, shares a house with 3 other young women, and is doing OK. She's not ready to go to college yet, but she knows its a necessary part of her future. mama bird
Needless to say, I would advise that you tell him he has to get job training. Also, he needs to volunteer somewhere like at a nonprofit or soup kitchen. Tell him that's what he has to do if he's going to keep living with you. Also, make it clear that when the economy picks up again, you want him to move out. Work out a plan so that when it does pick up, even if it's not for a year or two, he'll be on his way to being independent.
Also, having him see a counselor or psychiatrist might not be a bad idea if there is something going on there. If he won't get training or volunteer, I would definitely have him looked at. Anon
I would encourage you to look for a class in The Parent Project. Their curriculum is specifically designed to address difficult parenting situations. This national program has helped hundreds of thousands of families, some of them in much more dangerous situations than your own (gang involvement, heroin addiction, etc.) You can find out more about them at www.parentproject.com.
I would also encourage you to contact a mental health professional to assess your son for depression or other conditions. This is a situation that can be positively, firmly and lovingly addressed. No doubt at some level he's not feeling good about it either. Best of luck, Dave
My daughter will turn 21 in August. She has always lived at home, and schooling has always been difficult for her. In school, she has tested too high to qualify for special ed assistance but eventually qualified under ''other health impaired'' because of problems with depression. Since graduating from highschool, she has been attending a few classes at community college and working parttime in the retail sector. She seems to enjoy the day to day aspects of working, but she is very worried that she cannot earn a living wage. She has failed or withdrawn from almost all of the academic college classes she has attempted. The only academic classes she has passed are 1st semester Japanese and 2 semesters of intro Japanese conversation. We charge her ''rent'' (which we are putting in a separate bank account for her possible use if she decides to move out, wants to try an expensive program, etc). (Also, by the way, she has never learned to drive). It is probably time for her to try an alternative route, other than college. Any suggestions? In particular, I would love to find a program that mimics some of the social aspects of college--living away from home, for example, while adding some training in being an adult--how to manage financial matters, how to build a career, how to look for a job. If I can't find a program where she can live independently from us, I'm wondering if there are any local programs that offer the ''training to be an adult'' approach. I'm also interested in suggestions further afield on how to help this fledgling leave the nest and launch herself. Need a new approach
Hi, I would like recommendations for a career counselor for a young adult (20). We need someone that has lots of resources, not just suggestions. My son has suffered from major depression since he was about 15. He is finally working with a psychiatrist that seems to be getting him on the right track. My son took the CHSPE to get out of high school and has worked some minimum wage jobs. The longest he held a job was about 14 months. This was a major achievement for him especially since he found the job on his own. However, he is now unemployed and somewhat lost as what to do with his life. He has an interest in cars and DJing. We would love to find someone that is good working with this population and is not outrageously expensive. Thanks, never stop being a parent
Son, graduated college last May, living with a bunch of guys in a very large city elsewhere, working for the last 6 months for an international retailer making $9.50/hr and feeling taken advantage of (sounds like it to me but I donít say so out loud). Heís also trying to get his music career going which is very difficult in itself. City is very expensive and heís having a hard time getting by. On top of it, he had a DUI while here (thank God no one was hurt), spent some time in jail, and has a warrant now for unpaid fine. Husband sent him money (as loan) to pay fine and he spent it elsewhere. Heís alternately feeling optimistic or demoralized about his life (mentioning suicide several times since the DUI). I believe his drinking is under control. Iím glad that he can call me when heís feeling down (he did so a couple of days ago and we talked for a long time). It does seem somewhat manipulative in that Iím suspecting heís wanting me to offer to send him money, which I canít afford to do. He wonít ask me directly, because he knows the answer is no - I'm firm about him standing on his own financially. And we're also firm that he's now on his own regarding the DUI, since we've helped to our limit.
I listen when he calls with his woes, I try to offer moral support and suggestions without explicitly telling him what to do because I want him to stand on his own two feet and figure it out for himself since itís his life after all that heís living. I believe on one level that the struggles will make him a stronger person, but on the other hand Iím riddled with guilt about the many ways I let him down when he was young, Iím worried about his suicide talk, Iím worried about his struggles, Iím worried about a downward spiral. I try not to let him know that Iím worried about him, because I donít think this serves him in any way. Any suggestions as to the best way to deal with this and at the same time to maintain my own sanity and not to have sleepless nights about it?
First, ask him to go to a 12-step meeting with AA. You can locate his closest one on the web, and give him the time and directions. (If he does attend, ask him if he raised his hand.)
Second, arrange to pay for a qualified therapist, with the money not passing through your son's hands. He needs professional evaluation and help. Note that many experienced therapists will not touch an alcoholic, if he is not in a 12-step program.
While this expenditure may be financially painful to you, consider it money that would eventually spent for his funeral. Travel for two to Boston/NY ($2k); funeral costs ($5-10K). Your son well and alive (priceless).
Good luck. You have my sympathies. Friend of a friend of Bill Wilson
Try to help your son devise a plan to pay the fine and get rid of the warrant. He may need to take on a second job on the weekend. Help him figure out what type of second job he could get (waiter, warehouse, sales?). Maybe put his music career on hold until the fine is paid off. Tough, but that's life. Whatever way, he needs to earn extra money to pay the fine and clear his records. Lay it out to him in words--that you see this as a top priority. Also get him to be sure that he has fulfilled the other elements of the DUI (such as DUI classes) so he can clear his records completely.
The sad thing about getting a DUI is that most young people don't realize that it comes with a host of other costly items and problems. Definitely adds to the depression. He needs to get out from under it all.
He is also facing many problematic practical and existential issues. It is tough for young folks today, starting out. And always has been tough for people who want to enter creative artistic fields. Many live in poverty for years while trying to get a break. It is a struggle, but he can give it a fair shot and try to accomplish his goals.
Help him see that because of the trouble with the DUI and owing money, he may need to consider other alternatives for the moment. Alternatives such as working more hours, applying for a higher-paying job, putting his music career on hold, coming home to cut costs and save some money. Laying out alternatives may help him get a broader perspective and realize that it doesn't all have to happen now and that he can get back on his feet. This might give him some hope and help alleviate some of the depression or motivate him to work harder to stay where he is.
Good luck! Anonymous
My 20 year-old has held an above-average paying job for over one year now and I was hoping that he would have socked away some of the money in a savings account. However, he spends his paycheck as soon as he gets it on car parts. I would like to help him become more responsible and start charging him rent, placing the money in an account for a later date. What would be the going rate these days? Anonymous
Although I don't know your personal situation, here are some ideas that I had. I think that if your son is making an income that would give him sufficient funds to pay for his essentials plus enough to feel rewarded for working hard, then you should charge him whatever would be left over.
You could use this all as a positive learning experience for him by including him in your plans to save his rent money. Perhaps say to him that you are really happy for him that he is doing so well in his work and it seems like he's at a point in his life in which he is capable (in the sense that he is making enough money to save, at least) of starting to make wise financial choices for the future. Then you could say that you would like for him to start paying rent, and in helping him to be able to prepare for his future you will assist him in choosing an avenue in which to save/invest his rent money. You could help him come up with a budget by having him first budget the way he has already been spending his money and then looking at how he might alter his budget to allow for the cost of rent without feeling resentful about paying rent, but happy about the future gains of saving money.
I think it is really commendable that you want to save the money that your son will pay in rent. Anon
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