January 21, 2016
This is the second blog post in a two-part series on adolescents’ transition to the “real world.”
To view the first blog post, click here.
Intro music written and performed by Dr. Gene Beresin.
Outro music arranged and performed by Dr. Gene Beresin.
I love being a mom. I loved seeing my kids every morning and every evening. I loved knowing they were safe in their beds at night, right across the hall. And I loved knowing that they were eventually going to leave someday—although somehow I didn’t think “someday” would come so soon. The transition was challenging, rewarding, exciting, and sad. I have two children, and each has had a very different transition to college and early adulthood. In fact, in my work with adolescents, I’ve found there is rarely a “right” way to transition.
When I was finishing high school, there were, arguably, three things you could do: go to college, join the military, or get a job—and a “job” usually meant taking over your parents’ business, applying a trade, or working in a factory. If you were going to college, you were expected to finish in four years and then get a job, or go on to some type of graduate school in the hopes of…getting a job.
Things aren’t so simple these days. The path to adulthood seems to take much longer, and is more circuitous. Sometimes it feels as if it is the rare college student who finishes college in four years and gets the job he was hoping for. “Failure to launch” may not be just a passing fad, but a real change in the way we raise our children.
What accounts for this change? No one really knows, but people have speculated that the economy may be an issue. I think it may have something to do with our tendency to micro-manage our children’s lives, while giving them less responsibility for important tasks such as taking care of younger siblings, or working at a paid afterschool or summer job. We don’t give adolescents the opportunity to “mess up” and “clean up” their messes. Instead, policies are implemented in high schools and colleges where one strike means “you’re out.” This can be devastating for students, especially the most vulnerable ones who are struggling with learning, emotional, and attentional issues.
Something needs to change. It may require a paradigm shift in the way high school and college students are taught. We’ve learned a lot about individual differences in areas such as attention, memory, cognition, and learning over the past few decades, but little of this knowledge has translated to higher education.
Peter’s story illustrates a few of the difficulties that can emerge in the transition from high school to college/adulthood. The roots of some of these difficulties start in high school, because of reasons such as:
Given these issues, what can parents do?