Not going to college right away does not mean never going to college. Your student’s life may take twists, turns and detours as part of their journey to adulthood. It can all be a part of the process as they progress from child to adult.
If your student isn’t going to college now
The time after high school can be a great time to work on skill development so that your student can be successful in college down the road. Use this time to build life skills by:
– Learning to drive. This is a key aspect of independence and there are some incredible resources to help your student gain confidence and master this skill. This guide from the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia is a great place to start.
– Managing courses independently. Community college can be a great first step. You student doesn’t need to be enrolled full time to take a class at a community college. Select a course or two that aligns with their interests. If your student dreads math, this is not a time for calculus. Instead, select ceramics, nutrition, photography or computer science to fit their interests.
– Volunteering: Spending time with a volunteering organization is a great way for your student to gain real world experience, build references for future work and explore a passion. Learn more here.
Perhaps the most important consideration in this phase is your own emotional reaction as a parent. When your friends’ kids are going off to colleges and universities, it is tempting to feel like you came up short. Don’t fall into that trap. This is not a reflection on you as a parent. Our children’s lives develop in ways that we can not predit nor control. The best thing you can do is share your student’s plans with confidence to avoid introducing any shame into this life transition.
If your student’s time at college isn’t going well
One of the hardest parts of being a parent is knowing when to let your child fail and when to swoop in and help.
From my years of coaching autistic young adults, I’ve learned that it is very hard for neurodivergent young adults to ‘push through’ tough times. If you are hearing that your child is spending all day in their room, can’t get out of bed, or has fallen significantly behind in all of their classes, that is a warning sign they may need a break.
First, make sure your student is in a safe place. That may mean you get in the car to see them on campus or they come home for a while.
Second, learn about your options. Many colleges now offer medical leave for mental health challenges which may give your student some breathing room. Explore your options beyond push through or drop out.
Third, make a plan for the next semester. Work with your student to make a plan whether that is taking time off, returning with more supports in place or another path. If you are struggling to work through this together, this can be a great time for a parent consultation or a targeted coaching package.