A stutter-step before your young adult launches to college

If you remotely hesitate in believing whether or not your young adult is ready to head off to college, do not let them go! For the love of all things human!

From a business perspective, this is a bad deal.  It’s like buying a car that you know is a lemon, and then wishing with all your might that it’s money well spent.  Even though in your head and gut you know you completely just threw money away.  Am I calling your adult child a lemon, absolutely not!  What I’m saying is that as a parent if you remotely second guess your young adult’s readiness to head off to be a an extremely small fish in a massive ocean of large fish, do not let them go.  There are plenty of alternatives and opportunities to mature before heading off to college. And fun fact: college isn’t going anywhere!

What will happen though if you send them off “wishing” that they’d grow up quickly?  I can tell you, in fact I can nearly guarantee, they’ll fail.  There is no doubt in my mind.  Not because I don’t want them to be successful.  What I want and what I see and know are two very different things. Statistically speaking, your young adult will go off to college with the pressure they put on themselves to be successful, and the pressure you are putting on them as well.  This is often referenced as anxiety. Then, when they have one small hiccup in the challenges that exist in college it’s as if the entire floor disintegrated right under their feet and they are immediately in this extremely deep pit with no sign of light in getting out.  This is what is referenced as depression.  To make it even worse, they don’t tell you they’re in this pit.  They don’t want to upset you, or worry you, or worse – waste your money.  But guess what?  It’s too late for that.  We didn’t nip that in the bud back before the fall semester started because we so blindly pushed them into going off to college even though in our heart of hearts, we knew they weren’t ready.  Hell, maybe we weren’t ready for them to go either.

It all comes back to that stutter step.  Why did it happen in the first place?  Did you subconsciously realize that you’d never once taught them how to do their own laundry?  Or you’ve been waking them up for school for the last 18 years and never given them to space to teach them how to be self-sufficient?  Maybe it’s because you always told your friends they were really “shy” but deep down you knew they were socially overwhelmed and anxious.  Maybe they’ve been so academically hyper-focused that they’ve become addicted to the idea of being perfect.  I grew up on the East Coast, and sadly I completely understand that dilemma. 

It was not ill-intentioned on your part as a parent.  All you ever wanted for them was to be happy and more successful than you.  Did you ever stop to think that maybe your seven-figure salary was not actually motivating them to be better than you, but rather suffocating them into realizing they could actually never be better than you?  And maybe in that same vein, they actually realize you could just take care of them for the rest of their lives and why do they even need to go to college in the first place?  Ah!  That may not be the case for most, but it’s certainly for some.  For the students who want to go to college but just aren’t ready emotionally, we’re setting them up for failure.

That stutter step is your acknowledging as a parent that you didn’t fail, you just haven’t yet taught them all the things they need to master before launching on their own.  That’s your pause in acknowledging that maybe that shyness is really something that we need to seek therapy for.  It’s your way of saying without saying you don’t actually want to throw them in the water to see if they sink or swim, because we know they will immediately sink.  Period.

Gone are the days where our young people just need to “pick themselves up by their bootstraps.”  Forgive me for not caving to this 19th century idea of oppression in a 21st century world.  That old adage is garbage and it’s actually harming our young people.  No, they just can’t “pick themselves up.”  They’ve never stood on their own two feet.  Don’t you get it?  You’ve literally been the foundation, scaffolding, and electrical all along.  The idea of them being grown, successful, and ready for independence is a complete facade.  Mental health is real.  Generation Z is struggling for real, and the majority of them aren’t ready to be independently success on a college campus.  I will reiterate again, it has nothing to do with their academic preparedness.  To generalize, they don’t have the resilience.  They don’t have the life skills.  And we’re sending them off to experience their first failure in a horrific fashion.

So if you find yourself with that stutter step this week or next, seriously stop and think about what’s happening for a minute. Your expectations for your young adult could be clouding the reality of their impending academic and emotional doom.  That’s dramatic I know, but who wouldn’t end a blog rant on that kind of note?