Graduating high school and moving on to college is a huge milestone and challenge for both young adults and their parents. The obstacles range from learning to live on their own, to academic expectations, to social changes. Parents will often grapple with a loss of control and a sense of loss. While this transition can be difficult, parents can be most helpful if they do what they can to support their child as they navigate this new terrain.
“For parents, the early years of adulthood, from ages 18-25, can feel like a stressful balancing act,” says Laura Padilla-Walker, a professor and associate dean in the College of Family, Home and Social Sciences at Brigham Young University. Her findings suggest that it’s important for parents to remove the scaffolding of their support gradually, which means helping a child when they need it, but being careful not to take over, according to an article in the Washington Post.
Finding this balance can be tricky, but parenting experts offer the following advice:
- Prioritize education
- Teach time management
- Cultivate beneficial habits
- Encourage self-advocacy
- Build study skills
- Foster independence
- Explore options
- Develop professional skills
- Set financial goals
- Offer support
While you want to help your child succeed, it’s important to allow them space to move through their new life situation with independence.
A study published in 2019 found that young adults whose parents were both supportive of their independence and responsive to their needs had more positive outcomes, such as better academic engagement, less delinquent behavior and lower levels of depression, compared with young adults whose parents were uninvolved or too controlling.
In order to remain supportive, but avoid the pitfalls of hovering, psychotherapist Robin Stern, associate director of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence recommends the following:
- Get on the same page
- Learn to cope with radio silence
- Move from parent to mentor
- Know when to intervene