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How Do I Support My Child After Graduation?

Career Development Center - Yellowbrick Program - Source: Shutterstock
It’s the day many families eagerly anticipate, college graduation.  All decked out with caps and gowns, graduates imagine the successes of finding a job after graduation, living on their own, and emerging into adult life. Parents, proud and joyous at this memorable commencement, look forward to the next phase of life for their adult children.

Graduation Triggers Transition

Graduation also often signifies a time of homecoming, as high numbers of college graduates move home after college. This transition changes how the household functions, including financially, as adult children and their parents adjust to living together again. Some families embrace the return while others may not. Parents and college graduates living at home often disagree on limitations and setting mutually acceptable boundaries poses a challenge.

Manage Post-Graduation Expectations for Parents and Students

Expectations of starting a career, finding a spouse, or living on their own may be unrealistic and rushed, putting pressure on college graduates living with their parents. With elevated stress, high expectations to meet, and unclear futures, many college graduates, not having received concrete guidance on how to establish their identities or how to practice a healthy lifestyle, turn to potentially addictive solutions like drugs or alcohol as a means of coping. They may feel lost, alone, confused, or uncertain.

Exploring Self-Discovery and Financial Support

It can also be difficult for parents to guide their adult children along their path of self-discovery. Parents wonder what they should do and how long this phase will last.  It hurts to watch children suffer, at any age. Emotions like anger, disappointment, sadness, guilt, or shame weigh heavily and many parents cope by means of denial.  Parents question how long they should help their adult children financially to help them become financially and emotionally independent. Some wonder if continued financial support enables adult children living at home to postpone taking on responsibilities of their own, which could be contributing to bad habits, or even addiction.

No guidelines exist on when to cut off financial and other means of support for college graduates. One approach is for parents to focus on shared responsibility to determine what is acceptable for the parent and the college graduate. Schedule a family meeting open for discussion, with enough time for college graduates to prepare their thoughts and present them respectively. This approach allows for healthy negotiation as parents build appreciation for their adult child’s vision and views. A family meeting may hold college graduates who are struggling with addiction, depression, anxiety, or eating disorders accountable for their actions. Parents may evaluate their own feelings on their graduate’s future plans. If parents openly reflect, they may see their bias impacting family tension.

Graduates and Parents Can Receive Guidance and Support During Self-Discovery and Transition

College graduates benefit from a safe environment in which to explore who they are, what they are good at, and what they enjoy doing. Discovering personal identity and connection to others may directly nourish future successes for college graduates who find themselves back at home with their parents or struggling with addiction or depression.

Participation in a counseling and career services program like the Career Development Center at Yellowbrick, which encourages self-exploration and discovery of personal strengths, can help college graduates overcome addiction, depression, or an unclear direction and gain the skills needed to live independently. Upon entry of the Career Development Center, a comprehensive assessment identifies areas of strength, interest, and capability while trained clinicians develop an open and trusting relationship with each college graduate. Career counseling and skill development services at the Career Development Center give college graduates the outlets to explore career paths.

Parents can help their college graduates by honoring self-exploration, as long as limitations and boundaries are in place. It is normal for college graduates living at home to feel confused about their next steps, but when behavior patterns start to raise concern, it may be time for help. Parents can support their college graduates, and children over the age of 18, by getting support and enrolling them in a counseling and career services program.

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