Tips for parents trying to support young adults missing out on college

Pandemic restrictions mean some young adults who typically might be in college learning to live independently find themselves living at home instead. A Maryland counselor has advice for parents helping their children develop a sense of control over their own lives.

“Be mindful that you don’t want to micromanage their every move,” said Erin VanLuven, a licensed clinical social worker with Kaiser Permanente in Maryland.

One way to help transitional-age young adults find their way is to let them know that making mistakes is OK.

“Mistakes are opportunities to learn,” VanLuven said. “And some of the most important learning is done through experience.”

The objective is for parents to be able to look back and say, “I have molded and helped this young person become an effective adult and participate in society and in the community in a healthy and effective way — they’re not dependent,” VanLuven said.

“College is a really important time for developing those skills that are required to be independent.”

Life-building skills include having a job, doing laundry, making your own food, navigating relationships without having your parents intervening, and making decisions about when to go home at night without a parental curfew.

“Sit down and talk with your transitional-age young adult and ask them what they need from you,” VanLuven said.

What’s especially important for this age group, VanLuven said, is for parents to validate them and listen to them. While noting that you can always find something to validate, VanLuven advised against validating behavior that’s not effective. But you can recognize what they’re feeling.

“Say, ‘Wow. That sounds terrible. I’m so sorry you’re feeling so frustrated,'” VanLuven said.

Do not say things, such as, “Yeah, I understand that’s really hard, but let’s look at the bright side,” VanLuven warned.

“Those ‘yes, but’ types of statements can feel really invalidating and really can set up our youngsters to no longer reach out to us.”

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Looking for more information? D.C., Maryland and Virginia are each releasing more data every day. Visit their official sites here: Virginia | Maryland | D.C.

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